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A New Year, Renewed Efforts

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As January progresses state legislative sessions are underway and family law bills are being introduced around the nation.  Bills designed to improve parent access to children have been introduced in Arizona and Nebraska.  Before getting into these bills, here's a brief review of several of our collective successes from last year including legislation that went into effect January 1.

Citizens in Walsh County, North Dakota passed a ballot initiative establishing equally shared parenting as the default minimum in child custody cases.

In Arizona a new custody law requiring the courts to maximize parenting time is now law.  Additionally, the new law requires judges to implement a parenting plan that provides children the most time with both parents if parents do not submit an agreed parenting plan to the courts.  The legislation also requires the court to sanction a parent who falsely accuses another parent of domestic violence as part of a custody case or deliberately attempts to drag out court actions.

Illinois’ new visitation interference law, The Steve Watkins Act, has gone into effect.  The law gave judges new tools to enforce access.  Those tools include suspending drivers licenses, assessing fines, requiring bonds to assure order compliance, ordering make up time and incarcerating offenders who repeatedly interfere with the other parent’s access.

In South Carolina, efforts led to new legislation requiring parents to submit parenting plans to the court in custody actions and establishing a family law study committee to review the statutes for the purposes of creating a less adversarial family court.

In Ohio a coalition of organizations led by ACFC successfully defeated fast tracked child support legislation that would have created a number of problems for child support payers.

The most disappointing development last year had to be Governor Mark Dayton’s veto of legislation in Minnesota which increased the default minimum amount of time a child spends with both parents from 25% to 35%.  Citizens clearly wanted this legislation to pass, work continues in 2013 as the Governor has committed to revisiting this issue.  

Thus far in 2013 family law improvement bills in Arizona are, among other things, seeking to establish equally shared parenting at the temporary hearing stage.  Such a bill has immense value in that it sets the expectation at the very beginning of a case that both parents are expected to be fully involved in raising their children.

Two custody related bills have been introduced in Nebraska.  One is modeled on the new Arizona custody statute and the other is based on last year’s Minnesota bill.  Additionally a bill is pending in Nebraska which would require the state to collect data on the allocation of time sharing in custody cases.

2013 is just getting underway, we’ll continue providing updates as the year progresses.  Thanks to all of you who are supporting efforts to improve family law and support shared parenting.  If you would like to get involved in family law improvement efforts, let us know by sending an email to: info@acfc.org.