Divorces are rarely easy, but they’re particularly painful when kids are involved. Deciding who gets custody can be especially difficult, but Michigan lawmakers are hoping to bring some civility to the process by passing a bill that allows “equal parenting” to be viewed as the standard for divorce settlements. Supporters of the Michigan Shared Parenting Act say that old divorce laws were created during a time when women typically stayed home to take care of the kids and men were often uninvolved as parents. Ideally, this bill would bring custody settlements into the twenty-first century.
The proposed bill, which has been championed by Michigan State House Representative Jim Runestad, would require judges to begin custody proceedings with the assumption that two equally-involved parents deserve a 50/50 custody arrangement. According to the bill, giving one parent primary custody “requires a ‘clear and convincing’ standard of proof to rebut a presumption of established custodial environment.” Essentially, parents are now innocent until proven guilty.
Some critics have raised concerns that this new law will allow abusive and negligent parents to maintain custody of their kids, but lawmakers say they have placed safety measures in the bill to prevent that sort of thing from happening. In the bill, a variety of factors is listed that will determine if a parent is in the way of what’s best for their kid, including their mental health and ability to provide financially, even maintaining many of the safeguards set in place by the original Child Custody Act of 1970.
“We have taken a lot of time to craft the potential situations that can come up,” Runestad said in the report. “This allows the courts to deal with them individually but the starting point for loving, caring, and fit parents is equality.”
Whether or not this bill proves to be effective remains to be seen, but studies show that kids of divorced parents are much happier and emotionally healthier when they get to spend equal time with both parents. The Michigan Shared Parenting Act takes a huge step in allowing modern parents to break free of outdated gender roles and escape negative stigmas about divorce.