TOPEKA — Advocates for family court reform are calling on lawmakers to pass a bill that would make equally shared parenting time the standard in divorce settlements.
As it is, they say, a single parent, typically the mother, gains custody in more than half of the cases.
Will Mitchell, chairman of the Kansas chapter of the National Parents Organization, told a small gathering Thursday at the Statehouse that the best parent for a child is both parents.
When parents divorce, he said, the current court standard leaves one parent with just four nights per month with his child. The every-other-weekend concept means going 10 days without seeking the kids.
“It’s a winner-take-all parental comparison contest," Mitchell said. "Kansas law does not create an objective standard by which a parent is deemed a suitable parent, but rather 'best interest' factors are set up as an adversarial competition between two parents to determine which parent is the best.”
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said shared parenting legislation introduced a year ago failed to gain support after judges expressed concern that their hands would be tied when trying to make the best decision for a child. She said new legislation would preserve judicial discretion.
“The safety of our children is the most important thing, but keeping families together should be our ultimate goal," Faust-Goudeau said.
Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, lamented how control over child custody decisions has been taken out of the hands of the Legislature by "other governmental entities."
“It is important for both parents to be involved in a child’s life," Garber said. "If we can do anything to improve that law here in this state, I’m on board with that, realizing that it’s unfortunate we have bad parents on both sides.”