One of the most contentious issues to resolve during divorce is parenting time. A bill passed 122-0 by the House on Monday creates some hope for parents seeking resolution.
The bill is a product of collaborative, bipartisan talks, with both sides of the issue represented in its years-long development, Mahoney said. “People used to glare at each other on the issue. Today we talk to each other; it is a real big step.”
A significant change to current law would allow for modification of court ordered parenting time plans over time, based on the child’s best interest and their developmental needs.
“A child at 3 [years old] has different needs than at 13. The judge can put that into their directions,” Mahoney said.
Other provisions would include:
- no presumption for or against joint physical custody, except when domestic abuse, as defined in the order for protection statute, has occurred between the parents;
- a provision that when the court is considering awarding either joint legal or joint physical custody, it may not use one of the four factors considered to the exclusion of all the other factors;
- that a disagreement over sole or joint custody is not to be considered an inability of parents to cooperate when considering the factors in awarding joint legal or physical custody; and
- a requirement that the court make detailed factual findings whenever the parties disagree about an award of either sole or joint physical or legal custody.
Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) has partnered with Mahoney on the bill over the years, but she said the bill doesn’t go far enough. “It has been a long process … This issue still is a problem. There are a lot of children being alienated from one of their parents.”