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Midwestern state could see major child custody changes

More states are focusing on parenting time, and Ohio residents may be interested to learn that one state is considering a law that would mandate nearly equal child custody time in some divorce cases. Unless there is evidence of child abuse or one parent causing substantial damage to a child, each parent would be awarded at least 45 percent of time as custodian of the children if the proposed legislation were to pass and become law.

The joint-custody mandate is the brainchild of a group of parents' rights activists in Minnesota and, according to them, would level the playing field for many fathers who are going through the divorce process. Traditionally, courts all over the nation have favored the mother in child custody decisions. This bill, if passed, could offer fathers a chance to have more custodial time with their children, according to its advocates.

Those proposing the potential legislation note that, in most cases, child custody decisions are made by agreement between the parents without court intervention. This bill, once passed, would subject divorcing parents to the custody mandate only if they could not reach an agreement on their own. The bill's proponents say that it would be in the best interests of the children to have the custody decisions set forth with no room for negotiation in cases where the divorcing parties are unable to come to any agreement. Opponents note that it is often in the best interests of the children in some families to live with one parent over another, even if there is no allegation of abuse.

The legislation is set to be heard in committee this session. If passed, it could lead to changes in the way that many states, including Ohio, consider child custody in marital dissolutions. While passage of the bill in Minnesota does not directly affect custody issues in our state, the apparent trend to provide equal custodial time may be worth following for couples contemplating or confronting those issues.

Source: Minnesota Lawyer, "2012 session: child custody fight headed to St. Paul" Patrick Thornton. Jan. 20, 2012

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