Compromise reached on custody legislation
After several years of legislative wrangling and negotiations, the two primary stakeholders in the shared parenting debate in South Dakota have come together, according to a news release.
The result is a measure agreeing to recognize the importance of joint physical custody in South Dakota divorce cases. The collaborative effort was announced this week as the bill is being circulated to add legislative sponsors.
The measure was jointly drafted by Tom Barnett of the South Dakota State Bar Association, Casey Wilson, a father and shared parenting advocate, and Mark Allen Urban, a family counselor in Rapid City also representing the shared parenting group, who each drafted their respective provisions of the bill. The measure that will be introduced is the result of their joint effort.
“The Shared Parenting Act should aid in eliminating some of the thornier points of contention between divorced spouses, and help to allow them to maintain stability and civility in their children’s lives,” Wilson said in the news release.
Barnett and Wilson had previously been on opposing sides of the measure. This year, however, the groups made an effort to come together and agree on several points to allow the measure to move forward.
The main provisions of the bill would allow judges to consider factors pertaining to joint custody and write a conclusion of facts and findings based on those factors. The bill will address the act of parental alienation and false reports of abuse by parents who try to sway the decision of the courts during custody battles.
The judge would have the ability to weigh several new factors in determining custody, including parental stability, suitability, appropriate housing, the effect that a lack of contact with a parent will have, and whether parents can show mutual respect for and effectively communicate with each other regarding the child’s needs.