Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Joint custody could improve state's child support efforts - Michigan

Joint custody could improve state's child support efforts


One thousand seven hundred employees now work full-time in Friend of the Court offices as referees, counselors, clerks, and support staff in all 83 Michigan counties. In addition, many employees of the criminal justice system devote a major portion of their workday to this last vestige of debtor's prison.

So it is no surprise that there was consternation in Lansing over a federal plan that cut nearly a quarter billion dollars in Michigan subsidies for child-support enforcement. But one state legislator,
Rep. Leslie Mortimer, R-Horton, has introduced a bill that could reduce the need for devoting so many resources to child support enforcement.

It would simply amend the Child Custody Act of 1970 to create a presumption that parents who divorce maintain joint custody of their minor children. Both would retain the legal right to authorize medical treatment, have access to school records and so forth. Both would have physical custody of their child(ren) for alternating and substantially equal periods of time.

The legislation makes provision for rebutting the presumption of joint custody -- if a parent is either "unfit, unwilling or unable," or moves residence so far away as to preclude maintaining established school schedules. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, it will simply give defendants back some control over their own fate.

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