Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New Hampshire -New Bills Introduced

Concord Monitor Online

Excerpts below:

Two bills working their way through the Legislature would encourage parents to work together to formulate a plan for raising their children after a divorce. It's hoped that the measures also make the experience more civil.

The Presumption of Shared Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act would create a legal presumption that parents should share equally in raising their children, both in decision-making and physical custody.

"In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall be guided by the presumption that equally shared parent rights and responsibilities are in the child's best interest," the bill reads.

Both bills also separate laws relating to parents and children from laws relating to marriage and divorce so as to avoid confusing the issues, and both bills replace the terms "custody" and "child support" with "parental rights and responsibilities."

The most important difference between the two bills is that while the second encourages parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children, the first calls for the sharing to be equal.

"I felt that we needed to go one more step," said Rep. David Bickford, a New Durham Republican. Although he is chief sponsor of both measures, he prefers the first.

Bickford said state courts seem inclined to try to perpetuate whatever family structure existed before the divorce, giving primary custody to whichever parent was the primary caregiver during the marriage.

Bickford argues divorce should be viewed as restructuring families, not trying to preserve old arrangements.

"Right now the whole thing is based on looking for who the better parent is or who the primary caretaker was," Bickford said.

New Hampshire Bar Association spokesman Dan Wise said that while everyone agrees parents should try to cooperate more, the presumption of shared custody is a controversial idea.

"There are a lot of lawyers who do divorce work who are very skeptical about the idea," he said. "They think that's sort of a parents' rights view of the situation," rather than being focused on what's best for children.

Bickford said state courts seem inclined to try to perpetuate whatever family structure existed before the divorce, giving primary custody to whichever parent was the primary caregiver during the marriage.

Bickford argues divorce should be viewed as restructuring families, not trying to preserve old arrangements.

"Right now the whole thing is based on looking for who the better parent is or who the primary caretaker was," Bickford said.

New Hampshire Bar Association spokesman Dan Wise said that while everyone agrees parents should try to cooperate more, the presumption of shared custody is a controversial idea.

"There are a lot of lawyers who do divorce work who are very skeptical about the idea," he said. "They think that's sort of a parents' rights view of the situation," rather than being focused on what's best for children.

Bickford said state courts seem inclined to try to perpetuate whatever family structure existed before the divorce, giving primary custody to whichever parent was the primary caregiver during the marriage.

Bickford argues divorce should be viewed as restructuring families, not trying to preserve old arrangements.

"Right now the whole thing is based on looking for who the better parent is or who the primary caretaker was," Bickford said.

New Hampshire Bar Association spokesman Dan Wise said that while everyone agrees parents should try to cooperate more, the presumption of shared custody is a controversial idea.

"There are a lot of lawyers who do divorce work who are very skeptical about the idea," he said. "They think that's sort of a parents' rights view of the situation," rather than being focused on what's best for children.

Bickford said state courts seem inclined to try to perpetuate whatever family structure existed before the divorce, giving primary custody to whichever parent was the primary caregiver during the marriage.

Bickford argues divorce should be viewed as restructuring families, not trying to preserve old arrangements.

"Right now the whole thing is based on looking for who the better parent is or who the primary caretaker was," Bickford said.

New Hampshire Bar Association spokesman Dan Wise said that while everyone agrees parents should try to cooperate more, the presumption of shared custody is a controversial idea.

"There are a lot of lawyers who do divorce work who are very skeptical about the idea," he said. "They think that's sort of a parents' rights view of the situation," rather than being focused on what's best for children.

Bickford said state courts seem inclined to try to perpetuate whatever family structure existed before the divorce, giving primary custody to whichever parent was the primary caregiver during the marriage.

Bickford argues divorce should be viewed as restructuring families, not trying to preserve old arrangements.

"Right now the whole thing is based on looking for who the better parent is or who the primary caretaker was," Bickford said.

New Hampshire Bar Association spokesman Dan Wise said that while everyone agrees parents should try to cooperate more, the presumption of shared custody is a controversial idea.

"There are a lot of lawyers who do divorce work who are very skeptical about the idea," he said. "They think that's sort of a parents' rights view of the situation," rather than being focused on what's best for children.

The Family Law Task Force does not endorse Bickford's favored version or the idea of presuming anything about where and with whom children should live, Gardner said.

"We do not believe in the strict legal presumption of joint custody,"she said. "We believe each family is unique and you have to look at the needs of the children in each family. It's not always appropriate. It's not always in the best interests of the children."

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