A bill being heard this week by a Missouri legislative committee promotes shared parenting – a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce.
The legislation proposes adding language to the state’s child custody law to emphasize that the best interest of the child is equal access to both parents – a change that would encourage judges to pay more attention to research on the best interest of children.
Dr. Ned Holstein, president of the National Parents Organization, says numerous studies have shown in recent years that children do not fare as well in “sole custody” or “primary custody” arrangements and that shared custody needs to be emphasized whenever it is possible.
The best custody arrangements, says Holstein, are those in which parents rotate responsibilities, typically on alternate weeks.
But he says nationally the typical custody arrangement is to place the children with one parent about 80 to 85 percent of the time with the other parent only spending time with the children a few days a month.
Holstein also says setting a standard shared custody model will reduce the number of nasty custody battles.
“Many of the parents who are warring,” he says, “are warring precisely because what the courts set up is a fight, where they say one parent will win and the other parent will lose."
In contrast, Holstein says when the expectation is that the judge will opt for shared custody, most responsible parents think, “Well, I guess I have to sit down and figure out how we're going to make this work.”
The two Cape Girardeau legislators say they were urged to sponsor the bill by the president of the Missouri chapter of the National Parents Organization, Linda Reutzel, who lives in their city.
Steve Bell is afternoon news anchor and business news reporter for KCUR. He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or at firstname.lastname@example.org