Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bill puts kids first in divorces -New Hampshire

Portsmouth Herald Local News: Bill puts kids first in divorces


A bill designed to mitigate some of the most unfair aspects of current divorce law was passed in both houses of the Legislature this month.

HB 640 aims to remind the estranged spouses that their children come first. To do that, it requires the parents go through pre-court mediation unless there’s a restraining order in place. The bill also assumes that children need to have both parents active in their lives and asks each parent to create an in-depth parenting plan.

Rep. Chris Serlin, D-Portsmouth, said the current process is destructive to children, and many believe the system favors mothers.

"It’s so hard for the kids to understand why their parents would want to dissolve their bond," said Serlin. "The children will deal with it for the rest of their lives. We have to keep the process from scarring them, if that’s possible."

Serlin agreed that the courts probably favor women.

"A presumption of equality is a good place to start," Serlin said. "Anything that levels the playing field is good."

"Not many people win a divorce," he said. "But the research shows it doesn’t have to derail the kids if the kinds of things in this bill are actually done. Mediation is especially useful when the two people sincerely want to work things out for the kids. But there’s so much hurt to set aside. Nobody goes into a marriage thinking it will fall apart."

Powers said the children want to know they’ll still have a mother and father in the end.

Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, said the bill sets up some clear criteria for making decisions about support and custody. That, along with mediation, should make the legal battle less costly and more amicable, she said.

"It will make sure the parties talk about the needs of their children early on," said Fuller Clark. "That’s a step in the right direction."

Rep. David Bickford, R-New Durham, the bill’s prime sponsor, said he drafted the legislation to require mediation in every divorce case, but an amendment passed by the Senate exempted cases involving domestic violence.

In an exhaustive report issued in 2004, New Hampshire’s Family Law Task Force, chaired by Nina Gardner, recommended the passage of legislation like HB 640 along with a broad expansion of the family court system. Gardner said the bill helps parents keep their children out of the fire of the divorce.

"We know the children absolutely, positively benefit from having two parents in their lives," said Gardner. "That’s a profound change the report and the bill address. There’s no gender bias in our report. That doesn’t mean a 50-50, cookie-cutter arrangement is best in every case. It means the kids are not property."

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Blogger Iguana said...

Of course, the catch in this bill is that a restraining order stops everything. So, nothing will change. Any woman that is not happy with how things are going can just say she is scared of her ex and then get a 2 minute restraining order. Suddenly, the "equality" presumption is gone and the woman gets everything she wants.

It's a good start, it is better than nothing, but it doesn't solve the primary problem.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous A Mom That Will Keep Fighting said...

I have never dealt with a restraining order, but I do say kids come first. My ex won custody; has and continues to severely brainwash the kids that they won't call me mom anymore or hug me. The time I spend with them now is 4 hours per month supervised; even after psychological testing which found the ex UNFIT. What is wrong with the Court System ?

Its not only DAD's who have limited time with their kids; its also the MOM's! I agree, divorce is rough, but don't put the kids in the middle; and my ex did just that.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Good luck Mom - no willing and able parent should be kept from their children. Kids certainly need both parents! And it doesn't hurt if they act like adults and cooperate- instead of trying to turn the kids against the other parent.

This blog is not anti-mom (as I have explained to other moms in your situation) just know that what is happening to you frequently happens to fathers -which is why I am here.

1:46 PM  

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