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Child custody reform bill inching close to passage

  • Blog Post by: Jeremy Olson
  • May 10, 2012 - 1:17 PM

Update: On late Wednesday night, the Senate voted 46-19 in favor of the bill that would increase the presumption of time divorcing parents should each get with their children. Under the bill now before the governor -- a divorcee himself -- courts would presume that each parent is entitled to 35 percent of custody of their children. The remaining 30 percent would be negotiated, or the divorcing parents would reach their own child custody agreement.

With attention fully on the Vikings stadium issue, a bill that would change child custody proceedings for divorcing parents in Minnesota is quietly inching its way closer to the governor's desk.

The latest version of HF322 would simply increase the presumed time each divorcing parent would get with his or her kids from 25 percent to 35 percent. (The remaining 30 percent of time would be figured out through mediation or divorce proceedings.) The Senate held a second reading of the bill Monday.

Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, had initially authored the bill with more complex reforms that would affect the calculations of child support payments. She also wanted to create a presumption of true shared custody -- at 45.1 percent for each parent. The bill also included a new concept for Minnesota law -- virtual parenting time -- and would have required courts to consider the use of wireless and video technology to help children remain connected to both of their parents. A version of her bill with these provisions passed the House last month by an 80-53 vote.

Those concepts don't exist in the bill before the Senate. While Scott said that was somewhat disappointing, she would be happy with the passage of a bill that would take an incremental step toward shared custody. The percentages in law are just starting points for negotiations. But Scott said she felt 25 percent is too low, and encourages parents to fight too much in divorce proceedings to claim the remaining time with their children. A presumption of shared custody, she argued, would compel more constructive negotiations.

Not everyone agrees. In committee hearings, opponents argued that a presumption of shared custody is unrealistic and potentially harmful if it requires children to ping-pong back and forth between parents too much. They argued that a move toward shared custody might be easier on parents, but might not necessarily be in the best interests of their kids.

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