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February 20, 2012 - Here’s a brief update on what’s happening in several state legislatures around the country regarding shared parenting and other items of interest to parents.  You may want to take time out of your day to call your state legislators and give them your thoughts on the need for family law reform.  Much of this activity is happening in the next several days.  Support efforts in your states to give children a full relationship with both parents.

Minnesota – On Tuesday, February 21st, the House Judiciary committee is scheduled to take testimony on HF322 a bill which would grant both parents in divorce a minimum of 45.1% time with their children.  Testifying against the bill will be the Bar Association, The Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the AAML and surely several of the other ‘usual suspects’ who profit from keeping parents separated from their children.  The good news is strong support exists for the bill among legislators.  The hearing begins at 8:15 a.m.  Get there early, show your support and sign up to testify.  ACFC’s Minnesota affiliate, The Center for Parental Responsibility is doing great work.  Show your support for them.

South Carolina – On Wednesday, February 22nd the South Carolina Senate will hold a hearing on HB4614.  HB4614 is a bill heavily influenced by family law attorneys that passed the House last month on a 104 – 0 vote.  It guts a bill we told you about in January that would have given many of South Carolina’s families a shot at shared parenting.   The Senate is being urged to significantly amend 4614, or kill it entirely, rather than pass a bill that’s nothing more than ‘lip service’ to parents concerns and does nothing but maintain the status quo.   Contact ACFC’s South Carolina affiliate, The South Carolina Coalition for Parents and Children and let them know you’ll be there on Wednesday.

Maryland – Two years ago some 75% of Maryland residents paying child support were ‘treated’ to a significant increase in the child support guideline amounts.  This year there is a bill that would require Maryland parents to pay child support through college.  Married parents are not required by law to pay for the education of their adult children.  For more information read this compelling piece by Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  The hearing on bill HB986 is set for Thursday, February 23 in the judiciary committee.  Get there by noon to put your name on the list to testify.

Nebraska – On February 9th the Nebraska legislature’s judiciary committee held a hearing on LB844 a bill shared parenting bill which would also require custodial parents to provide an annual accounting of how child support dollars are spent.  There was no vote taken on the measure at the time.  Opposing the bill was the family law section of the state bar association.  Contact members of the judiciary committee and let them know why you think shared parenting is a good idea.

South Dakota – You might recall last year when a true shared parenting bill fell three votes short in the Senate of making it to the Governor’s desk for signature.   This year a substantially similar bill, SB60, was brought to the legislature, unfortunately a panicked bar association brought their own version of a bill as well.  You read the bill and listen to the Senate judiciary committee debate here by entering SB60 in the search box. 

The judiciary committee chose to advance the attorney bill at the expense of the citizen’s bill.  You’ll hear testimony against the citizen’s bill by one committee Senator who also happens to be a practicing family law attorney.  It also happens that this particular Senator represents the interests of the state’s domestic violence coalition, although she fails to mention that fact.  What transpired there was a perfect example of why individuals with conflicts of interest should not be voting on legislation that affects their livelihood.

More to come, in the meantime give some thought as to how to rid the legislature of these special interests who profit by separating children from one of their loving parents.