The Detroit News recently printed a column written by a local divorce lawyer entitled “Shared custody bill ignores reality” (Nov. 14). The article acknowledges “it is in the best interests of children to be raised by two loving parents dedicated to their children’s upbringing and well-being.” Yet, the attorney concludes that such a statement “presupposes that every child has two such adults in their lives.” There is no need to reform divorce law in Michigan, he argues, because it’s working out just fine the way it is.
The statistics prove otherwise. According to a report released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in October, 57 percent of child custody cases end in one parent being stripped of custody of their children. Can we assume that in well over half of all divorcing Michigan families, there is only one parent dedicated to their children’s well-being? Of course not. But, that’s what many divorce attorneys who have a vested interest in the current system would have you believe.
Current state law does not require a judge to make a custody determination based on whether one or both parents are genuinely supporting the well-being of their children. The courts must only conclude that one parent is “better” than the other when comparing warring parties on 12 factors. Once that determination is made, judges grant primary parenting responsibilities to one parent and relegate the other to a secondary role. The norm is to strip custody from the losing parent and restrict them to the cookie-cutter model of every-other weekend and three hours on Wednesday night.
I introduced House Bill 4691 to provide a starting point of joint custody and substantially equal parenting time in divorce cases. The legislation would provide the legal tools judges need to rule out joint custody in cases where a parent isn’t able to properly provide for a child, or in cases of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, criminal activity, illegal drug use or mental illness.
A well-respected polling firm, Marketing Resource Group, recently conducted a public opinion poll on the issue. Their results were stunning; an overwhelming 84 percent of Michigan residents support shared parenting and 75 percent specifically support my bill.
It’s clear the divorce industry is on the wrong side of history in its opposition to shared parenting.
Rep. Jim Runestad