Heading to the House floor is a bill that would give fathers greater rights in child custody disputes.
HF322 would change current law to a presumption of joint legal and joint physical custody with a minimum of 45.1 percent of parenting time for each parent. A parent is currently entitled to receive at least 25 percent of parenting time.
It was approved on a split-voice vote by the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), the bill’s sponsor, said custody issues are generally worked out between the couple without court intervention.
“Two parents going into to a custody issue will have time to work this out on their own, and if they don’t, then the judge steps in,” she said. “This bill doesn’t say that out of the chute they have to have 45.1 percent parenting time. This bill allows flexibility.”
But this is projected to come at a $1.5 million cost to the General Fund in fiscal year 2013 and $4 million in each of the following two fiscal years. The cost reflects the additional court staffing that will be added, according to a nonpartisan fiscal note.
“I think this is a small amount of money to invest in making children have as close to equal access to both parents as possible,” Scott said.
There will be savings to the state in other ways, she said. “Children from single parent homes have a higher rate of teen suicide, drug abuse, teen pregnancy — a whole plethora of social problems that our counties and the state are paying for.”
Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) disagreed.
“The assumption that this experiment will save folks money, we have no idea if this is the case or not. And I, for one, don’t believe it at all. To assume that you can use the model of a single parent raising a child and then say those kids have additional problems, and then moving it over and saying this will solve those problems? There’s no relationship.”
She noted the significant change in state policy regarding child custody issue that the bill proposes.
“I’m very troubled by changing the standard we have in the state which is in the best interest in the child, to essentially moving to a parent standard which is the best interest of the parent. I think we are taking a huge expensive road that is not good for children, either.”