The Shared Parenting Movement is gaining momentum and spreading across the country. While much of the news is good, there are also many examples highlighting the uphill battle to equality. Below you will find news reports, articles, or stories about custody, parenting, legislative events, and legal proceedings that relate to our interests and objectives.
ARKANSAS PASSES THE STRONGEST JOINT CUSTODY LAW IN THE NATION
April 7, 2021
Governor Asa Hutchinson signed SB18 into law today, giving Arkansas the strongest joint custody law in the nation. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Alan Clark and Rep. Gazaway, creates a presumption of joint custody in cases of divorce and paternity, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence. It passsed the Senate by a vote of 33-2 and House by a vote of 71-16. This represents years of work by Arkansas Advocates for Parental Equality and will hopefully pave the way for more states to follow. You can read a news article here and blog post here.
PUBLIC OPINION POLL SHOWS 95% OF ARKANSANS SUPPORT JOINT CUSTODY
January 15, 2021
Arkansas Advocates for Parental Equality and National Parents Organization jointly conducted a public opinion poll showing overwhelming public support for joint custody in Arkansas. This is just one of many polls across the nation showing near universal support for joint custody and family law reform. Among the many findings are 95% believed "it is in the child's best interest ... to have as much time as possible with each parent." Additionally, 87% supported a change in the law to include a presumption of joint custody. Finally, 94% believe Arkansas law should be changed to make it easier for unmarried fathers to have parental rights. You can find the entire poll here.
ARKANSAS ISSUES REVISION TO CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES, BUT NOT AS PROMISED
April 21, 2020
The Arkansas Child Support Committee has finally released the updated guidelines. Unfortunately, the model is not as promised. For the first time, both parents' income will be considered in determining child support. However, unlike most Income Shares models, the Arkansas version does not account for parenting time. It also does not address joint custody. These were both expectations that were promised by the committee to everyone, including the legislature. You can read the new guidelines here as well as a news release here.
ARKANSAS BECOMES 41ST STATE TO ADOPT INCOME SHARES CHILD SUPPORT MODEL
May 1, 2019
Arkansas passed HB1802 during their 2019 legislative session, becoming the 41st state to adopt the Income Shares model for child support. Previously, Arkansas had used an embarrassingly outdated model that assumed one parent had sole custody while the other worked. Income Shares accounts for the income of both parents as well as the amount of time spent with each parent. It also brings uniformity to the state since there had been no guidelines for child support in cases of joint custody. The law stipulates the deadline to implement the new model is March 1, 2020. Hopefully this will address one of the many inequities in our child support system and start to focus on the child. You can read the bill here and a law firm announcement here.
GROUNDBREAKING ARKANSAS BILL SEEKS TO GIVE UNMARRIED FATHERS PARENTAL RIGHTS
February 20, 2019
Arkansas has recently filed legislation to give unmarried fathers rights and equal treatment under the law. In one of the worst examples of gender discrimination, the law currently gives sole custody to the mother, regardless of the circumstances. It then requires the father to prove a number of things that the mother did not, such as that he is a fit parent. If passed into law, HB1486 would create a pathway for unmarried fathers to be determined the parent upfront, remove the additional requirements for fathers, and apply the current "favored" status for joint custody. You can read the bill here and a news story here.
THE NATION'S MOST COMPREHENSIVE SHARED CUSTODY LAW GOES INTO EFFECT IN KENTUCKY
July 1, 2018
Kentucky now has the strongest shared custody laws in the country. The law, House Bill 528, was signed by Governor Matt Bevin in April and went into effect July 1, 2018. The overwhelmingly popular bill passed the house by a vote of 81-2 and the senate unanimously. What makes this law special is that it is the first in the nation to create a "legal presumption" for joint custody and equally shared parenting time. In contrast, Arkansas law simply states that joint custody is "favored" and has little legal weight. The Kentucky law goes on to specify that this presumption also applies if a court modifies a custody decree. You can read more about the custody law here and here.
WASHINGTON POST REPORTS THAT 20+ STATES CONSIDERED SHARED CUSTODY LAWS IN 2017
January 5, 2018
The Washington Post has written an article on the shared parenting sentiment that is sweeping across the nation. They report that over 20 states considered laws in support of shared parenting in 2017. Hopefully 2018 will be the year that laws are "passed" and not only "considered." While the article is generally positive on the subject, we would like to address the arguments used by critics of these bills that were presented. 1) These laws never apply in cases of abuse or neglect and judges always have the final say. 2) Potentially eliminating child support is not a valid argument against shared parenting - unless you believe money is more important than your child's wellbeing. 3) Saying the laws are unnecessary because most couples already choose shared parenting is like saying laws against homicide are unnecessary because most people choose not to kill others. You can read the entire article here.
NEW LAW TAKES EFFECT IN KENTUCKY REQUIRING JOINT CUSTODY IN TEMPORARY CUSTODY ORDERS
July 14, 2017
A new law took effect in Kentucky making joint custody and equal parenting time a rebuttable presumption in temporary custody orders. Legally, this means that the 2 parent model is the default starting point and the judge must justify in writing an order of unequal custody during the divorce process. The law, HB 492, passed both houses of the legistature unanimously, reflecting the growing awareness that shared parenting is best. Although there is no such law yet regarding permanent custody orders, temporary custody orders often set a precedent that is followed in the permanent custody order. Of note, Arkansas law does not address temporary custody orders, creating an unregulated "free-for-all" during the divorce process with negative ramifications down the line. You can read more information on this topic here and here.
SHARED CUSTODY BILL TAKES EFFECT IN MISSOURI, FALLS SHORT OF EQUALITY
August 1, 2016
Missouri HB 1550, publicized as a "shared parenting bill," took effect on August 28. The initial version of the bill generated publicity by setting a presumption of equal parenting and a clear way to address custody violations without an attorney. However, by the time it was passed, it did neither. The bill establishes guidelines for courts to follow and allows for shared custody, but only suggests "maximizing time" with each parent. It also provides an initial pathway for custody violations to be filed with the court without requiring an attorney, but does not specify how these are addressed. The only real effect of the bill is that it prevents courts from applying a default parenting plan and requires them to hear each case individually - a sad indictment of the family courts. We applaud Rep. Kathryn Swan for introducing the bill and hope that a more meaningful version will pass in the future. You can read more about this story here and here.
JOINT CUSTODY AND ALIMONY REFORM BILL PASSES FLORIDA LEGISLATURE, BUT VETOED BY GOVERNOR
April 15, 2016
Florida Senate Bill 663 was passed by overwhelming majority by the state legislature before being vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott on April 15, 2016. The new law would have required judges to start with the premise of equal custody and time between parents before taking into consideration the other details of each case. The law would have also ended permanent alimony and set up a new system to establish alimony based on length of marriage and the income of both parties. Although receiving strong popular support, the bill was opposed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and many attorneys groups for obvious reasons. This bill was a step forward toward equality and its veto shows how money continues to triumph over the best interests of our children. You can read more about this story here and here.