Bill would promote equal child custody in divorce

Divorced parents to split custody

"The best model so far is husband and wife working together to raise children," said attorney Catherine Real.

But for 38 years Real has made a living off couples who could no longer stand being couples.

"I am involved in custody fights every day," Real said.  

Real believes there will be less fighting if custody concerns are removed, which is why she supports legislation heading to Gov. Rick Scott's desk to require judges to begin with the premise that a child should spend equal time with each parent after a divorce.  Shared custody.

"Children need role models, not just female role models, male role models," Real said.

The rewrite of Florida's divorce laws was debated in the House today.  It passed 74-38.

It now goes to Scott, who vetoed a similar law two years ago.  This current measure doesn't allow couples to retroactively modify existing custody agreements.

National parenting organizations say this change benefits children according to research.

"Whether it's trouble with the law, delinquency, dropping out of school, those problems are not getting better, they're getting worse," said Dr. Ned Holstein of the National Parents Organization.  "There's now a mountain of evidence showing that children do better after the parents separate or divorce if they have both parents involved."

But critics say in some cases the law will force couples back to court, asking a judge to amend their equal-parenting plan for several possible reasons like work schedules or challenges getting the kids to school.

Judges will still have discretion and could adjust the premise after weighing more than a dozen factors.

The law would apply equally in cases where the parents are not married.


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