April 26 is a special day because it is the anniversary of the day the United States’ first statewide equal shared parenting law was passed by Kentucky lawmakers in 2018. This law made 50/50 custody presumed or considered for children whose parents divorce or separate.
In 2019, Kentucky declared April 26 to be Shared Parenting Day, and since then Missouri, Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and the city of El Paso, Texas, have joined in recognizing the holiday.
The legislation in Kentucky was the result of true grassroots organizing and tireless work from shared parenting activists. Last year, Arkansas joined Kentucky as the second state to pass such a law.
While that progress is heartening, much work remains. The unfortunate reality is that far too many states rely on outdated models to determine how much time each parent receives with their children. In fact, the National Parents Organization recently released its 2022 Child Support and Shared Parenting Report Card examining in detail the child support and custody guidelines in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and the results were discouraging. Just four states received A’s while 33 states were graded as a D or F.
Warren Farrell, author of “The Boy Crisis” and The New York Times bestseller, “Why Men Are the Way They Are,” has conducted in-depth research on the most effective ways to help children of divorce fare as well as children in an intact family. His findings have revealed four must-dos:
- Equal time with both mom and dad (the most important)
- Parents living within 20 minutes’ drive time of each other
- No bad-mouthing of the absent parent;
- Consistent couples’ communication counseling.
That research reveals just how vital it is for lawmakers to reconsider the child custody status quo.
Fortunately, several other states are working on passing additional shared parenting legislation that could help level the playing field for divorced dads. Here are brief summaries of pending shared parenting laws across the U.S.
Senate Bill 1796 has been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. If signed into law, the bill, in addition to ending permanent alimony in the state, would create the presumption of a 50-50 time-share of custody. Florida has been on the verge of modernizing its alimony and custody laws for years but has repeatedly fallen just short. With SB 1796, the Sunshine State might finally get the ball over the goal line. DeSantis also recently signed HB 7065, which includes educational programs, mentorship programs, and one-on-one support to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood in Florida.
Pending in the Missouri legislature, SB 839 would codify a presumption of a 50-50 custody split unless a credible reason exists not to do so. House Bill 1974 also has been introduced, which would establish a rebuttable presumption that child custody arrangements that award equal parenting time are in the best interest of the child. These bills come on the heels of a setback in 2021 when several family law reforms died on the Senate floor.
After an equal parenting bill died in committee last year, Senator Bryan Hughes (Tyler, Texas) authored SB 1936, which allows for updates to the antiquated Standard Possession Order (SPO). In short, SPO schedules allow for children to be with the non-custodial parent about 20-24% of the time. The passage of SB 1936 allows that percentage to increase to closer to 40%. An Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO) is now considered the default so long as parents meet the required criteria. Although still not a true 50/50 shared parenting bill, this law has been hailed by shared parenting advocates as a big step in the right direction.
Ohio House Bill 508 would make the presumed outcome in child custody matters that of Shared Parenting and an equal parenting time schedule. Currently, the state requires family court judges to order sole or primary custody to one of the parents if an agreement is not already in place.
Cordell & Cordell Fights for Fathers’ Rights
Cordell & Cordell has been an advocate for fathers’ rights since the firm’s inception more than 30 years ago. We are encouraged and inspired by the progress the shared parenting movement continues to make, but we also understand how treacherous the family court system can be for men and fathers, particularly when child custody is an issue.
Rest assured that the firm will remain dedicated to providing guys the legal resources and guidance needed to navigate whatever family law matter you are up against. If you need a divorce or child custody attorney, please get in touch with us to schedule a consultation.