A package of proposals to reform family law in Minnesota are the result of more than a decade of negotiations capped with difficult but successful compromise, a group of bipartisan lawmakers said Thursday.
The changes, which range from altering child support and parenting time changes to clarifying penalties for parents who deny parenting time to another parent, are the work of lawmakers and family law attorneys.
Lawmakers have long debated the state’s laws governing custody and parenting time. Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed legislation in 2012, urging the more than 30 collaborators in the legislative and family law arenas to return to the table with more compromise.
“This process has not been easy, but it’s been rewarding,” said Rep Peggy Scott, R-Andover, who was flanked by family law attorneys and fellow lawmakers Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, and Rep. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights. “No one has gotten 100 percent of what they wanted, but what we do have is a package of bills that we do have consensus on and I do believe will help the process of family court and the lives of the children of the state of Minnesota.”
The three key points of the legislation, expected to be proposed in a series of bills, include Revising "Best Interests of the Child" factors, altering child support statutes and improving and clarifying family law statutes.
Laine said that although conflict set the tone on initial attempts at reform, the ultimate result was worth it.
“We started with deep-entrenched views on issues and distrust,” she said. “And now I can say we have friendships and understanding. That doesn’t mean everyone got what they wanted, but it does mean that the change in our working together has been very dramatic when you’re talking about a major divisive emotionally-charged issue like this, that’s amazing, and we have some workable solutions.”
Here are the proposals: