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Equally Shared Parenting Legislation Being Enacted Nationally

2013 may well be remembered as the year the tide changed decisively in favor of Equally Shared Parenting in the United States.  In the month of April two states, Arkansas and Florida, have both passed legislation mandating equal and substantially equal parenting time as the preferred outcome for children experiencing their parents’ divorce.  In Arkansas the legislation has already been signed by the governor and is law.

Act 1156 has been signed by Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe.  Language of the act calls for courts to favor joint legal custody.  The Act goes further to define joint legal custody as meaning “approximate and reasonable equal division of time with the child by both parents.”   The act further states the court may order this arrangement at its discretion, it is not necessary that the parents be in agreement about joint legal custody for it to happen.    Additionally the law states that a parent who creates conflict or attempts to disrupt a joint custody arrangement may lose custody to the non-disruptive parent.  This is great news for children and parents, particularly fathers in Arkansas, as they will no longer have to ‘fight it out’ in court to remain a full parent to their children.

Earlier this week in Florida, the House of Representatives voted 85-31 to forward SB718 to Governor Rick Scott for signature.   Florida’s Senate passed the bill earlier this month with a 29-11 favorable vote.  SB718 is alimony reform legislation spearheaded by the group Florida Alimony Reform, which is in the process of changing its identity to Family Law Reform, Inc.  ACFC extends congratulations to FLR for this tremendous achievement.  We also extend thanks to all members of the Florida legislature who voted for this groundbreaking legislation. 

Alimony reform has been long overdue in America.  Former ACFC Executive Director Dianna Thompson played a crucial role in changing alimony laws in California over a decade ago.  Elements from the California legislation related to capping the length and amount of alimony based on the length of the marriage were enacted in Massachusetts last year, and are presently awaiting the signature of Florida’s governor.

Most importantly to parents everywhere is a provision in the bill which establishes equal time sharing for children with both parents as being in the best interest of children.  Bill language further states this factor may only be overcome using the clear and convincing evidentiary standard. 

As it stands now, Governor Scott needs to sign this legislation.  As we saw with the vetoing of shared parenting legislation last year in Minnesota, we know there will be many special interest groups lobbying the Governor Scott to veto the legislation.  Please send him an encouraging email.  It’s long past time that children of divorce are able to maintain a full relationship with both parents.

At ACFC we have worked diligently for 17 years to see these actions coming to fruition.  More states are moving in this direction.  Illinois’ legislature held hearings on a major custody law revision just this week.  We are awaiting action from Nebraska’s judiciary committee on a pending custody bill there.  And just recently equally shared parenting legislation was introduced in North Carolina.  We are pleased to see shared parenting transcending politics and being acted on positively by both republicans and democrats.

We need your help to continue these efforts, please use the donate button in the middle of the homepage and make a donation, or just click this link.  Thank you, with your involvement and support, shared parenting has moved from ideal to reality.