A new “shared parenting” law will grant divorced Missouri fathers more time with their children.
Historically, even when nothing negative can be said about a father vying for custody of his children, a judge will often devise a custody agreement that allows fathers much less quality time with their kids. Equal custody was not often granted, simply because judges would choose to favor the mother in a given situation.
The new law, overwhelmingly passed by both the House and the Senate, forbids judges from making custody decisions based on the gender of the parent. In addition, the law amends the formerly accepted instructions to grant “significant, but not necessarily equal” time. It requires a Missouri court administrator to create guidelines for divorce court judges in order to “maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent.”
This news is overwhelmingly positive for divorced fathers, who have too often felt cheated out of time with their children simply because of their gender. Scott Myers, one of the supporters of and lobbyists for the law, knows how painful this reality can be. Myers states that, prior to the passing of the law, he often “felt like a visitor and not a father” due to the lack of time he was allowed to spend with his two daughters.
Similar legislation was recently passed in Utah, Arizona, and Minnesota, and its appeal is growing nationwide. In the last year, approximately 20 states examined their divorced parent custody laws and policies on some level. The overall effect of these laws on custody agreements has yet to be seen, but it seems that a shift has occurred over the last three to five years: more divorced couples are embracing the fact that shared parental involvement is more beneficial to healthy development than sustaining only one primary residence and caregiver.
Although at least 66% of divorced couples in the United States are childless, for the other 33%, child custody issues play an important role. The creation of new legislation to protect the rights of both parents in court — and the importance of equally shared custody for the benefit of the children — marks a much-needed change for many families throughout the country.