The Missouri General Assembly is currently considering a new bill that could change parts of the law related to custody.
House Bill 299 and Senate Bill 531 add a rebuttable presumption when establishing child custody regimes that give each parent the same or approximately the same amount of time, according to the summaries provided for each bill.
The bills would create a presumption in favor of 50/50 child custody in all cases. Consideration of the best interests of the child is currently required by law when determining custody.
Allison Tschannen, partner at Kranitz, Sadoun and Carpenter, said the House bill, which found its way to the Senate, would change the structure of the factors considered and create a new foundation.
“The starting point according to this bill would be that the court must examine it in the best interests of the child so that each parent has the same time or almost the same time with the child,” said Tschannen.
There is currently no guess as to what parental leave or a visiting arrangement should look like.
“It is entirely at the discretion of the court to have the court take a number of specific factors into account,” said Tschannen.
The factors could include the wishes of the parents and the adaptation of the child to a new life situation, school or community according to the documents of the draft law.
David Bolander, a judge in the Buchanan and Andrew Counties District Court, oversees custody cases and said everyone is different.
“Each case is a little different. All circumstances are different. We have to take care of the child’s best interests and the things that go with them, ”said Bolander. “Which parent is most likely to allow frequent, meaningful contact with the other parent? Has there been any kind of abuse or neglect? What connection does the child or children have with their community, with other relatives? “
Bolander said another of several factors considered was the child’s preference.
Different types of custody also need to be established, including joint custody and joint custody.
“There is custody that makes decisions and custody, which is basically parenting time. That’s probably what people think about most of the time, ”said Bolander.
Parents must also provide the court with a proposed parenting plan for how the child’s arrangements will be made.
“Decision-making, child support and those kinds of things are all included in this parenting plan,” Bolander said. “As a judge, when there is a controversial case, I weigh it up. I look to the best interests of the child and use what I believe to be the best interest and the facts that are presented to me. “
Proponents of the bill said in a committee document on HB 299 that children who have time with both parents are generally happier and healthier.
This is not the first time that a bill with a similar aim has been proposed. Earlier invoices include HB 724 in 2017, SB 645 HB 1667 in 2018 and SB 14 and HB 229 in 2019.