The young traveler boy with a suitcase. Isolated over white background. Vertical view

The young traveler boy with a suitcase. Isolated over white background. Vertical view

A new law went into effect Sunday in Missouri to give fathers a more equitable starting point in divorce court.  The “shared parenting” law aims to make court-driven divorce custody decisions equal between moms and dads in terms of time spent with children. The law not only forbids taking the gender of the parent into account, which has been prohibited nationwide for many years. It changes the way a judge approaches dividing up parenting time. Where the prior Missouri law said that the judge must award “significant but not necessarily equal” periods to each parent, the new law requires the Court to maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent.” Missouri is the fourth state to pass shared parenting laws that help fathers start on equal footing. Utah, Minnesota, and Arizona have also passed such laws. The science behind the law shows that children do better when both parents are actively involved in parenting. This runs afoul of the traditional mindset in family law that a child would do better with one primary parent and main caregiver – shared parenting is actually more vital to healthy child development. This is the latest step in a national trend respecting the increased role of fathers in their children’s’ lives.

The law still allows the judge discretion to reduce time with a parent who shows significant adverse behaviors such as spousal abuse or drug addiction.

Read the article here New Missouri law pushes divorce judges to establish equal child custody time.

In the last session of the Texas legislature, a law was introduced to change the standard for assessing parenting time (2015 House Bill 2363). The law sought to make an equal schedule the presumption in Texas law. Critics of the bill felt that the provisions were too stringent, not allowing for discretion of the court depending on the circumstances of each case. The bill was highly controversial and did not pass, but proponents vowed to come back in the next session.

As the law stands currently in Texas, the presumption starts with a primary parent and grants the secondary parent access to the children according to the Texas Standard Possession Schedule (1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends, Thursdays during the school year, 30-days in the summer, and split of holidays). Many families agree on an equal schedule when that works best for their situation, most using either a week-on/week-off schedule or a 2-2-3 schedule (two days to one parent, two days to the other parent, then every other weekend). But absent agreement, few courts in Texas will impose an equal schedule over the objection of either parent. That’s when you get in a situation where you have a “winner” parent and a “loser” parent in a custody battle. And really in that scenario, no one wins.