Bill seeks to make 'shared custody' a default for divorced parents

TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) The Kansas Senate will hear testimony on legislation to change child custody laws for divorced families.

Muramasa / CC BY-SA 3.0 / MGN

If passed, it would create a default child custody arrangement for divorced parents.


The legislation would require courts to give parents - who do not have an agreed upon custody agreement in place - equal or approximately equal time with their children.

There must be clear and convincing evidence to make a different determination for equal time not to be considered.

Morgan O'Hare Gering, who specializes in family law, says she sees the positive aspects of the bill, including fewer disputes over child support and temporary orders.

"If people would look toward, 'Hey, the court's going to look at 50-50 first,' then maybe parents will do what's best for the kids before they think about financial, child support or money," she says. "They think about what's the best parenting schedule we can do for our kids?"

Jeremy Harrell, a single father, says he feels 50-50 parenting should have been the default law in Kansas from the beginning.

"If you have two good viable parents, I don't see a reason why both parents shouldn't split custody with no money preferable exchanging hands," he says.

Factors like work schedules, children's ages, their involvement, school schedules, and how far apart each parent lives can determine who get more or less custody if one parent challenges the 50-50 default scheduling.

Harrell hopes the bill shows both parents deserve equal time with their children.

"The main message is that fathers love their children just as much as any mother does and it's important for any father to be a big part of their children's lives and this bill would finally put it to the point showing that fathers are equally as important to their children's lives as mothers," Harrell says.

According to current Kansas law, an agreed upon parenting plan is presumed best for children.