Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kids win with Kentucky custody law

A new law grants the wishes of many Kentucky children by bringing them what they need most following divorce: both parents. 
Effective this month, the state has a new law on temporary child custody orders, which are the starting point for separating families. Kentucky’s House and Senate unanimously approved the changes to Kentucky Statute 403.280 making joint custody and equal parenting time the presumption in temporary child custody hearings during divorce processes. Simply put, custody conversations will begin with the two-parent model. 
The law gives children a better chance to see both parents after a divorce as long as both parents, married or not, are good caregivers. Not only is this what children often want but studies overwhelmingly show that significant time with both parents is best for kids. It’s important to point out that the equal parenting time standard does not apply in cases where children are likely to be abused and/or neglected. The new rules apply to both previously married and unmarried couples. 
Children in married families enjoy access to, and interactions with, both of their parents. Before the new law, children in separated families enjoyed whichever parent the court picked for “primary custody."  
These children were often allowed a short “visit” with their other parent, but the parenting roles of the other parent were very limited.   
However, the new law strengthens a better arrangement called “shared parenting.” In shared parenting, kids get to see both parents equally. Instead of one parent winning, the children do.   
Research clearly shows that shared parenting children score significantly better on a wide range of emotional, behavioral, social, health, and academic outcomes than sole custody children.  Active involvement by both parents following a divorce is essential to having healthy, happy, active, and involved children and greatly reduces the risks of problems ranging from drug use to premarital sex.  Importantly, research shows that shared parenting benefits children even in situations where parents do not get along or communicate effectively.   
Under the new law, the kids clearly win – but both parents win, too. Neither parent is denied his or her half of parenting time. Neither parent is forced to work all day long and then be a single parent all night long every day. Both parents have half their evenings and weekends to focus on their careers, tend to one of their own parents, or start a new relationship. 
Now, fewer divorcing Kentucky parents will be fighting tooth and nail to “win” their children. Thanks to Gov. Matt Bevin and bill sponsors David Osborne, R-Prospect, Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, and Robby Mills, R-Henderson, joint custody in temporary orders is Kentucky law. 
Ryan Schroeder is the Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Louisville - rdschr01@louisville.edu.  Matt Hale is the Kentucky Chairman of the National Parents Organization - mhale@nationalparentsorganization.org.  

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