‘I’m out of money, and I’m out of hope’: Rethinking custody battles!

Massachusetts could be one of the first states in the country to pass such a bill into law, although it is not the only one currently considering it. The Commonwealth is one of nearly 20 states looking at shared parenting laws, according to the Wall Street Journal .

The bills propose that a child spend at least a third of the time with each parent. Their supporters say it is in a child’s best interest to have significant time with both parents, and that parents have the right to parent their children. Senate bill 834 and House bill 1207 favor joint custody between divorcing parents if the parents cannot agree on arrangement themselves or a judge determines shared custody would not be in the child’s best interests based on a number of factors.

“It’s a complete rewrite of the Massachusetts custody statute,” Dr. Ned Holstein, founder and board chair of National Parents Organization, which promotes shared parenting in child custody agreements, told Boston.com. Holstein also served on former Gov. Deval Patrick’s Massachusetts Working Group on Child Centered Family Law, from which the bills’ proposals come.

In the current law, judges use “the happiness and welfare of the children” to determine custody arrangements, giving them some discretion in how to define the best interests of a child in each individual case.

The bills would more clearly define custody rights, taking that discretion away and putting the onus on a parent to prove the other parent is unfit to have at least a third of the child’s time. It would also place uniform rules on what is usually a very individual, often nuanced, situation.

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