Friday, February 18, 2005

South Dakota - Shared parenting bill fails

How depressing

Anything in bold is my disgust, not the authors content...

Excerpts below full article at the AberdeenNews.com

Shared parenting bill fails
JOE KAFKA Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. - A bill seeking to foster shared physical custody of children in divorce cases was rejected 9-4 Friday by the House Judiciary Committee when opponents said such a law would cause needless court battles and harm children.

Supporters of SB123 argued that judges tend to favor women in custody cases and that many fathers in those instances find it difficult to stay connected with their children.

Both sides agreed children do best when estranged parents are civil to each other and actively involved in their children's lives.

Children of divorce are happier and better off when both parents help raise them, said John Grosz of Sioux Falls, president of the South Dakota Coalition for Shared Parenting.

"One parent should not be able to gain full custody of the children simply because they do not agree to a shared parenting arrangement because they know statistically they will gain full custody by disagreeing to joint physical custody," he said.

Speaking against the bill, Sioux Falls lawyer Cathy Piersol said judges already may award joint physical custody of children. She said part of the bill requiring judges to specify why they have denied joint custody would cause parents to pay increased costs for lawyers and home-study experts because custody hearings would have to be held in every case.

"This legislation is a tool for mischief," she said. "The person who suffers is the child. It's absolutely proven that every child of divorce ... has two great fears. One of them is that they have caused this divorce. The second one is the fear of abandonment." WTF does this even mean? What about the previous DAILY relationship the child had with the (now) noncustodial parent? Has that continuity not been forcibly "abandoned" by a court order?

Bouncing children from one parent's home to the next is not generally a good idea, she added. "Children need structure." Listen up everybody - Children need structure more than parents so lets just put them all in "highly structured" government institutions instead. C'mon - Cathy said so and she is an attorney so she must be right!!

The State Bar and Trial Lawyers Association also objected. Shocking

If both parents are fit, they are equally entitled to custody, said Rep. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, who voted against the bill. She said judges consider what is best for children before awarding physical custody.

Shuffling children between homes of parents with shared physical custody can confuse children, Cutler said.

"Children are put in a horrible situation that causes fear and anxiety and depression when they don't know who they're supposed to be with, and where they're grounded at. Where's headquarters?" Where is your support for this assertion, Joni?

One Sioux Falls parent who testified for the bill told of hardship when a judge allowed his wife to move to Utah with their child. He rarely has contact with the child anymore, the man said.

However, Cutler, a lawyer, said she was familiar with that case and that it involved a contentious breakup and hard feelings. She said the only way the man was allowed to see his daughter while she lived in Sioux Falls was when the family would meet at the police station. Again I am simply shocked to hear that Joni is also an attorney! Anyone else seeing a pattern? Could it have ANYTHING to with the fact that states that have presumptive joint custody have lower divorce rates, presumptive joint custody actually reduced litigation as there is much less of a question as to whether one parent can effectively "get" the children....

SB123, offered by Sen. Clarence Kooistra, R-Garretson, had earlier cleared the state Senate without a dissenting vote.

Kooistra, a former teacher and school counselor, said he sponsored the bill out of a firm conviction that children of divorce do much better if fully connected to both parents. He said Iowa passed a joint physical custody law last year, and it has worked well.

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