Last week Kansas joined a growing list of states supporting shared parenting when the Senate passed SB 157 by an overwhelming margin of 39 to 1.
Statewide polling last year showed Kansans supported the pending change by an amazing factor of 40 to 1. These results were verified last week at the Capitol with widespread support among men and women, Republicans and Democrats and across every age and racial group. SB 157 would create a presumption favoring shared parenting time for temporary child custody orders if both parents are considered capable.
This bill now passes to the House of Representatives with tremendous momentum, joining a rapidly growing national trend.
Senator Vic Miller, a former municipal court judge, said he supports equal rights for moms and dads, adding, “In those cases where they are hotly contested, one party wins a lot just by being the first one to the courthouse.” He went on to say he was voting for the bill.
Sen. Eric Rucker, an attorney, also voted for the bill. “Proponents expressed to us a tendency that once judges of this state issue temporary orders along these lines they did not have an equal chance to modify or change the order once it ultimately became permanent.”
Assuming the bill’s likely passage in the House, Kansas is expected to join neighboring Missouri, also poised to pass shared parenting soon.
Sen. David Haley, an attorney from Kansas City, expressed the need for our family laws to change in order to help the growing number of single parent families. He said he supported the legislation because it would allow fit and willing fathers to help raise their children. Haley speaks correctly about a larger issue damaging our children.
Current U.S. Census Bureau information puts the number of children in single parent homes at 24 million and growing. Single parent children led alarming categories: numbers of those in prison, high school dropouts and those who commit mass shootings. Recent research shows children who grew up in a shared parenting custody situation, statistically grew up happier; and much more well-adjusted, compared to children who grew up only seeing one parent four days a month.
This data is shocking considering the average standard parenting plan in Kansas family court is only four days a month with the noncustodial parent.
Thankfully, our amazing lawmakers are listening to the people and the research, which shows shared parenting produces the best outcomes for children. Perhaps the best quote for the bill so far was from Senate President Susan Wagle when she saidL “Children deserve consistent love and care from both parents, but all too often our judicial system does not treat fathers fairly in custody decisions. Senate Bill 157 encourages a much-needed shared parenting arrangement, allowing children to benefit fully from having an involved mother and father in their life.”
This month the House Judiciary Committee has a great opportunity to pass an overwhelmingly popular bill needed for our children. If you feel children should have a presumption of equal time with good parents, please call the House Judiciary chairman Fred Patton. Ask him to pass SB 157 as it is.
Our society is changing, and so should our family courts. Our children need us.
Will Mitchell is chairman of the National Parents Organization of Kansas.