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.

 

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.