CHARLESTON, W.Va. – In the final days of the 2021 regular legislative session, a US Senate child custody bill was pending in West Virginia.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation with a strike and insert amendment that made some substantial changes to HB 2363 during a session that started late Wednesday and lasted until early Thursday morning.
In part, the amended version of the draft law provides for a minimum of 35 percent for parental custody.
Family Court judge Deanna Rock, a family judge on the 23rd Family Court Circuit, which includes Mineral Counties, Hampshire Counties and Morgan Counties, said the Senate bill “left the judiciary’s discretion intact.”
“This bill, the strike-and-insert, gives judges more concern as they weigh the factual elements of the care plans and now parenting,” said Judge Rock.
“Just as important as changing a child’s diaper, let’s say it’s just as important to have the lights on when you are.”
Jonathan “Jeb” Pinkerton was one of the parents testifying at the hearing.
When he divorced his wife after ten years in Berkeley County, he said his term with his daughter had been reduced to 27 percent due to his full-time work.
“The fact that I worked to support my family wasn’t taken into account in custody negotiations, just the fact that I wasn’t home,” Pinkerton said.
“I worked full time and my ex-wife didn’t. The fact that I worked full time supporting my family hurt me. “
The House version of the bill was much longer and included a requirement for joint custody of parents between 50 and 50 unless incompetence, neglect or abuse was found during a “full adversarial trial”.
That 50:50 guess is not in the Senate bill.
Del. Geoff Foster (R-Putnam, 15)
Del. Geoff Foster (R-Putnam, 15) was the main sponsor of the House Bill, and said he preferred it, but said, when asked about the Senate judiciary change, “It’s better than what’s in the current Code.”
In the house bill, Foster said 50-50 is a starting point.
The Senate’s custody account contained the provisions of the separate draft law SB 79, which dealt with applications for the relocation of a parent with a child.
The regular legislative session in 2021 ends on Saturday evening.