Missouri Considers Changes to Shared Custody Orders

Bills Suggest Equal Time Between Parents

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Missouri is the most recent state considering a change the way courts look at parental custody for kids. At the Capitol, legislation is bring proposed that would make shared parenting the norm for families in joint custody cases.

Right now, when courts look at divorce or separation  cases, a decision as to who will have primary custody of the child is usually made. However, with recently published research showing that shared custody results in positive effects for child development and child-parent relationships, more states are revisiting these standards.

The reform to family courts in Missouri is being proposed by two identical bills in the Missouri House and Senate, with Rep. Kathryn Swan (R-Cape Girardeau), and Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) sponsoring them. 

Right now, the definition of "joint custody" in Missouri family courts says that a child's time between parents isn't necessarily equal. Under these bills, the definition would change to say that each parent should have "approximate and reasonably equal" time with the child. Language in the bills says it is a way to make sure children have "substantial, frequent, continuing, and meaningful" contact with both parents.

The change is something the National Parents Organization is applauding, since research  has also shown that more equal parenting helps kids avoid a variety of things including substance abuse, depression, and trouble with the law.

"So we have a measure that is free to the taxpayer and will help so many of these problems that'll only seem to be getting worse even though we live in the richest country in the world," Ned Holstein from the National Parents Organization says. 

The bills also say that family courts should see the default parenting plan as kids having "alternating weeks with each parent."

The Senate version of this bill will be taken up by a committee Tuesday morning.


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