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Michigan citizens support change to the state’s family court system, and there’s still time to see historic progress before the end of December.

Rep. Jim Runestad introduced HB 4691 back in 2017 but still needs the votes in the upcoming legislative session to avoid any further delays in bringing shared parenting to this state. This change is long overdue for our state, and it’s time to ask our representatives and senators to listen to the people and take action.

In September of 2017, Marketing Resource Group of Lansing conducted polling of 600 likely voters in the state. The results showed more than 84 percent of respondents agreed “joint equally shared parenting time, given there is no history of abuse, addiction or mental illness, is in the best interest of the child.”

Additionally, more than 76 percent of respondents would support the “Michigan Legislature passing a law to require family court judges to rule in favor of joint equally shared parenting time unless the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit, unwilling or unable to care for a child."

As a mother and grandma, I’ve seen first-hand the struggles fantastic parents face while fighting for time with their children in the Michigan family court system. The cards are stacked against them.

Time and time again, one parent loses a custody fight because the courts state one parent, many times the mom, is much better for the kids. Why is losing one parent even a consideration? When children have two fit, prepared and able parents, why not keep both?

HB 4691 positions Michigan in line to follow in the steps of states like Kentucky and Virginia. Both passed important legislation in 2018 to encourage shared parenting outcomes, a versatile arrangement where kids spend as near equal time with each parent as possible after divorce or separation. More than 20 states — including Michigan — have considered similar legislation during this calendar year.

Momentum continues to grow, and Michigan can be on the front end of the sweeping reform that has and will continue to occur in this country.

Study after study shows that children benefit from maintaining significant relationships with both parents, regardless of marital status. Why do we continue to resist change? Why would anyone not desire to repair this obvious crisis that too often goes ignored?

Sole custody of kids must be the last resort, not the standard.

Moms and dads need to confirm what’s in the best interest of their children and encourage courts to alter the outdated standard. Michigan’s House and Senate have the chance to pass HB 4691 in this session and have the governor sign it into law.

Linda Wright is a member of National Parents Organization.

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