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Massachusetts governor lends his support to parenting bill

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has offered his support for HB 1400, the proposed shared parenting bill under consideration by the state legislature.

The bill's origins stem from research done by the Governor's Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law, a task force whose 18 members include Massachusett's chief justice for Probate and Family Court, members of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the National Parents Organization and domestic violence associations, legislators and a child advocate.

The custody model, which has already been implemented in Tennessee and Arkansas, is changing the approach of judges in the decision of which parent gets custody of the children in a divorce. The new bill's aim is to reduce incidents of parental alienation and ameliorate the bitterness and in-fighting between divorced spouses.

Judges would be able to use their discretion to set the terms of shared-parenting agreements in cases where both parents are willing to shoulder their responsibilities. There can also be no domestic abuse history for the parties or other extenuating circumstances such as unmanaged addictions.

According to the founder of the National Parents Organization, conflict is inherent in the present system, which usually defers to one parent over the other when allocating time with the minor children.

The founder said that parents become frustrated, and that "(c)hildren deserve to have two parents whether their parents are divorced or not. They should see them regularly and enjoy them . . . why not give them the chance to spend equal time with them?"

The bill will make parents commit to an agreed-upon plan where each parent develops a positive relationship with their child(ren). Parents would be barred from manipulating access to the kids, and if either fails to honor the agreement's terms, the court will intervene and alter the terms in the child(ren)'s best interest.

Your Massachusetts divorce attorney is a good source of information on ways the proposed bill could affect your current or future custody arrangements.

Source: Sentinel & Enterprise, "Shared-parenting bill will benefit kids" No author given, Apr. 29, 2014

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