Missouri Politicians Vote in Favour of Equal Parenting

GeorgiaLeeLang025The State of Missouri can truly boast of their “enlightened” political representation as state legislators took a bold step this week and passed legislation to engrain the concept of shared parenting into their family laws. The next step is for Governor Jay Nixon to sign the bill into law.

You may ask: Is this another one of those “watered-down” efforts we have seen before, where the change does not remedy the age-old “dad can’t be an equal participant in parenting” philosophy?  Not at all.

The changes contemplated in the new law are exciting for Missouri fathers who have for too long been marginalized by antiquated twentieth century traditions of stay-at-home moms and working dads, operating to advance a maternal preference for parenting after separation. The old way of parenting was shored up by untested psychological theories about mothers and fathers that unwittingly led to a template of a “visiting” parent, usually relegated to every second weekend for a total of four nights of access per month.

The primary caregiver model became the default position without consideration of the quality of parenting, the psychological functioning of each parent, or the history and nature of the parent/child relationship.

Good parents were lumped together with dysfunctional parents because judges relied on precedent, a straightjacket that we now know has hurt generations of children and needlessly disempowered parents, usually fathers.

The proposed Missouri law challenges those outdated assumptions by injecting language that directly addresses the inequality that has reigned for decades in North America.

For example, the definition of joint custody will read:

” Joint physical custody means an order awarding each of the parents approximate and reasonably equal periods of time during which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of each of the parents. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of substantial, frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with both parents;”

The bill also includes the following passage:

” In determining the allocation of periods of physical custody, the court shall presume that a parenting plan that equalizes to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent is in the best interest of the child. The state courts administrator shall modify the Form 68-A Parenting Plan, also known as “Schedule J”, to reflect the provisions of this subdivision and to include that the default parenting plan shall include alternating weeks with each parent, unless the parents submit an alternative parenting plan.”

It is encouraging to see politicians embrace the most up-to-date research which overwhelmingly supports parents as equal partners in parenting after separation. Hopefully, other jurisdictions will wake up and recognize that conflict during divorce should not be used to eliminate what hundreds of social scientists say is the best outcome for children. Shared parenting. It’s good for kids and parents.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

3 thoughts on “Missouri Politicians Vote in Favour of Equal Parenting

  1. This is Linda Reutzel from Missouri. The original bill HB 2055, did have the language you mentioned in your article. But that bill was stalled in committee. So we added some of the SP language as amendments to a bill that had already passed out of committee, HB 1550.http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?year=2016&bill=HB
    The rebuttable presumption is no longer in there but language “maximize to the highest degree” is. There are other changes in the bill. The link is above. I hope it works.
    If you have any questions, just let me know.

    1. Linda Thank you so much for your information. Where can I locate a copy of the bill that was passed by the House and the Senate, that is now awaiting your Governor’s approval?

      1. Here is the link. This bill started out as a family access bill in case of a party not following the order. It made it through committee in the House and then while in the Senate some amendments were added to it. Here is a synopsis of what was added:

        1. Requires courts to enter “Facts, findings and conclusions of law” pertaining to the determining factors of custody (8 factor) and child support (7 factors), unless a settlement occurs. This is so important because if not written then on appeal the new judge assumes everyone agreed.

        2. The State Administrator will develop parenting plan guidelines that “maximize to the highest degree” the time the child may spend with both parents. The parenting plan guidelines shall be made available online. A handbook, including these guidelines, shall be provided upon service of a petition.

        3. No court shall adopt any local rules, forms or practice requiring a standardized or default parenting plan.

        4. A parent’s sex is specifically mentioned as an unacceptable measure for determining custody.

        5. The court shall consider violations of the parenting plan to help determine the ability of that party’s willingness to allow the child frequent and meaningful contact with the other party.

        I think that covers it. The original SP bills got stalled in committees and on informal calendar and this was the best we could do. Not bad for a start but we will be back next year. I’m anxious to see what judges do with these changes. Oh, there is an emergency clause in this bill, so when the Governor signs it, it goes into effect immediately. The Governor has 45 days.


        Click to access HB1550T.PDF

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