Focus on Children’s Needs, Not Parental Wants
This past spring 2012, the MN Legislature was presented with HF322, a bill that in simplest terms, would have given children a baseline minimum of 35% time (increased from 25%) sharing with both parents in the event of divorce.
Along with the MN Coalition for Battered Women, partner domestic abuse agencies and family court advocates – DAP was against the passing of HF322. Let us tell you why.
HF322 Presumption of Joint Physical Custody is a deceptively simple bill that does not address the complex problems in family court. This bill is not in the best interest of children and will be disruptive, costly, and dangerous for Minnesota families.
This bill presents a significant and unwarranted departure from the important role of the courts to fully consider the health, welfare, and safety needs of children in every custody case and will be disruptive, costly, and dangerous.
- HF 322 is a deceptively simple bill that does not address the complex issues facing family court. Increasing the parenting time presumption will increase overnight exchanges and add to the disruptions in children’s lives. It will also lead to increased litigation in a majority of custody cases that currently are worked out by parents on their own. There are certainly problems in the family court system. But court intervention is not happening in most cases because parents are already successful in reaching their own agreements. In fact, research shows that only 1% to 5% of custody cases need court intervention. Those that do often involve domestic violence.
- H.F. 322 is dangerous for children who have domestic violence in their families. Increasing presumptions lessens the court consideration of the individual needs of the children. Court intervention happens with the most highly contentious and highly volatile cases—particularly in cases with domestic violence. Families in our community need the courts to carefully consider the best interests of children.
- H.F. 322 is also dangerous for battered women. Increasing the parenting time presumption from 25% to 35% increases the opportunities for abusers to further intimidate victims of domestic violence. Research shows that the most dangerous time for battered women is when they are separating from and leaving their abusive partner. This is the time that battered women are seeking court assistance with custody and parenting time issues. Each year, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women documents the number of Minnesotans who are killed in domestic violence incidents. Over the past three years, 60% of the battered women killed (29 women) were separated or attempting to leave at the time of their murder. The time of divorce/separation is precisely the time where safety should be a primary consideration for battered women.
In the end, Governor Dayton VETOED HF322.