Missouri Divorce Law Pushes for Equal Parenting Time
A new law in Missouri is pushing judges to grant parents equal time with their children after a divorce. Known as the “shared parenting” law, the legislation’s goal is to grant parents equal time spent with the children, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Fathers and activists lobbied for the law, which aims to give dads more time with their children. In Missouri, like many other states, fathers may be granted equal custody, but are only able to see their children every other weekend and one day during the week.
Previously, Missouri’s law specified that judges were to award “significant” periods of time with parents, but that time did not necessarily have to be equal. Decisions on how to deal with such cases were at the discretion of the individual circuit courts.
Under the new law, the Missouri court administrator must establish statewide guidelines for judges to “maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent.”
“Unfortunately, fathers are often granted disproportionately less time with their children by the courts, even if they prove to be a stunning example of what a father should be,” said a spokesman for M. Sue Wilson Law Offices of Minnesota. “But the tides are starting to turn, and we’re seeing more states establishing new laws that give dads the time they deserve with their children.”
Rep. Kathryn Swan championed the law, and Missouri is the fourth state to establish such legislation. Minnesota, Arizona and Utah have enacted similar laws.
Scott Myers, a divorced dad in Missouri, lobbied for the law after he was granted the typical custody arrangement: every other weekend and one day per week. Now, Myers’ children live with him every other week and with their mother the other weeks. Each parent gets a full weekend during their “on” weeks.
The arrangement has worked well for the family, and each parent gets to spend equal time with the children.
While studies have shown that shared parenting schedules (e.g. each parent has the children every other week) are beneficial, some judges are concerned of the shifting trend. They argue that it can be difficult to determine what’s in the best interest of the child if the parents live in different school districts and have different work schedules.
Changing the mindset of judges will also be a difficult task, experts say. The idea that children need one primary residence and one main caregiver has been ingrained into the mindset of most judges for decades.
Yet others fear that such laws give abusive ex-spouses more control over their children and former spouses. However, judges may still limit custody in situations where a parent has a history of abuse or addiction.
Still, many say shared arrangements can be very beneficial to families as long as they are sensible and consistent. To make such an arrangement work, parents must communicate with one another regularly, be extremely organized and ensure that their children know where they must be each day.
Meredith Friedman, Kids in the Middle CEO, predicts that many divorced parents will now be seeking modifications to their custody rulings now that the new law is in place.
Author: Jacob Maslow