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Neutral Testimony on LB22 & LB212: Modifications to the Parenting Act

Yesterday, Voices for Children testified on LB 22 & LB 212 in a neutral capacity.  Supporting equal parenting time in cases of divorce is important, yet we have concerns over some possible unintended consequences these bills may have.  Here is the written testimony we presented to the Judiciary committee:


To: Members of the Judiciary Committee

From: Sarah Forrest, Policy Coordinator – Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice

Re: Neutral Testimony on LB22 & LB212: Modifications to the Parenting Act


Children grow best in loving families where they have access to the social, emotional, and physical support that allow for healthy development. Every year in Nebraska, about 6,000 children are impacted by the divorce of their parents. An unknown number of children are also affected each year by the separation of cohabitating parents and modifications in parenting plans for couples of all sorts.[1] These changes can have a huge impact on children’s everyday life from their relationships with parents and family members, to their family’s economic stability, to their education and beyond.

Navigating divorce, separation, and custody disputes has never been easy, but the central focus of Nebraska’s policy must be ensuring the best interests of children, minimizing conflict as much as possible, and encouraging collaborative decision-making among parents. Voices for Children in Nebraska agrees with the proponents of both bills that positive, supportive relationships with both parents are important. Looking at trends since the implementation of the Parenting Act in 2007, we can see a steady increase in joint custody in cases of divorce (see Figure 1, Nebraska Vital Statistics).


While we agree with taking action to increase and encourage positive relationships with both parents, Voices for Children is concerned that the emphasis on or presumption of equal parenting time in LB 22 and LB 212 could have a number of unintended consequences:

1. Removing the best interests of children from a central position. Children clearly benefit from loving, meaningful relationships with both of their parents. While our public policy needs to encourage this, we should not conflate equal parenting time with children’s best interests in all cases. Placing a focus on parental access, instead of children’s interests and needs, could be harmful. No family or child is the same and we should encourage parents to make decisions based on what is best for their children including, but not limited to, meaningful contact with both parents.

2. Impact on economic stability of families and children. Nearly two-thirds of Nebraska’s children in poverty live in single-parent households.[2] A presumption of at least 45% of parenting time will impact child support calculations and could also have an impact on families’ ability to access public benefit programs which support the well-being of their children, like ADC and child care subsidies. As we consider ways to ensure children can benefit from their relationships with both parents, we must also be sure that we are making any necessary adjustments so that the economic stability of families is preserved and children’s basic needs are met.

3. Placing children and families experiencing domestic violence at increased risk. As we make changes to the Parenting Act, we need to be conscious of its impact on especially vulnerable children and families. Over 7,000 children and youth received services due to their exposure to domestic violence through the Nebraska Network of Domestic Violence programs in FY 2010-2011.[3] Concerns have been raised in other states that presumptions of custody can often be challenging to overcome, especially in cases of domestic violence where intimidation often takes place. We need to be sure that any changes to the Parenting Act fully account for children and families who need extra protection.

Voices for Children is committed to the continual strengthening of the policies and systems that serve our children. When it comes to the Parenting Act, we believe more comprehensive data and evaluation is needed. Furthermore, stakeholders of all different viewpoints and perspectives must be included so that we have a system that is capable of meeting the best interests of all of Nebraska’s children.

We urge the committee to encourage further stakeholder discussion and data collection before taking action on LB 22 or LB 212. While the intention of strengthening children’s loving, supportive relationships with both parents is crucial, we should explore all avenues of achieving this goal and go forward with a solution that meets the needs of all our children.


[1] According to the Kids Count in Nebraska 2012 Report, 6,069 children were impacted by divorce in 2011. Data was unavailable for the number custody modifications for 95,049 children living in single parent households and the 28,202 children living in cohabitating families. Data provided by Nebraska Bureau of Vital Statistics and US Census Bureau.

[2] Kids Count in Nebraska 2012 Report, US Census Bureau.

[3] Kids Count in Nebraska 2012 Report, NDVASC.

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  1. REPLY
    Rusty Hutchison says

    I ask you this, when the court says that both parents are good parents, why do they award custody to just one parent? Especially when there has been absolutely no domestic violence or fighting in front of the children. Do you think that when one parent is awared 90% of the time that the other that only gets 10% is not going to be angry and hurt? If there was a system that was set in stone, and was 50/50, there would be nothing to fight about. We would not have to argue about petty things when it is court ordered. Also you say that low income families would be hurt. What about the parent that has the ability, and education to have a good paying job, but refuses to get one for the simple fact that they will loose their government assistance along with a lower child support payment. I challange you to find why just because I work hard and try to provide for my kids, that the court system says I only get to see them every other weekend? How is that benefitting my children? Please feel free to contact me and explain this to me.
    Thank you

    Rusty Hutchison

    • REPLY
      helen says

      fathers should get 50 50 custody same as the mother otherwise its discrimination totally and completely

    • REPLY
      helen says

      Rusty: I totally get what you are saying and agree with your input.
      Generally most fathers get to see their children every other week-end. That totals 24 hours per day 4 days per month totals 96 hours. They are sleeping 8 hours out of the 24 or 32 hours out of the 96 allowed for your visit.Cutting your interaction with your children down to 64 hours per month. Out of those 64 hours per month .. That is not much time you get to spend interacting with your child.. You obey the courts orders to pay the child support and other of his orders but you are treated unfairly and being disacriminated against simply because you are a male. All you are asking is to have the same visitation rights as the female does. The money does not enter into the bill its just simply asking for equal custody of your children. Its about fairness and getting justice you should not be punished simply because you are a male.

    • REPLY
      Romie says

      I totally agree with you Rusty!

  2. REPLY
    Brian says

    Why does this organization call this “neutral” testimony when it is clearly in support of the status quo? I am going to take a stab in the dark and guess this group is ran by women…

  3. REPLY
    Bobbi Jo says

    Rusty and Helen –

    This article does not appear to advocate against this bill or for mothers/against fathers in any way. They are merely pointing out the details that must be figured out before hastily enacting anything affecting the well-being of our most vulnerable population.

    I applaud Voices for Children for keeping an eye on these matters and playing the devil’s advocate to ensure things are done right. If this bill were passed without these details in mind and a negative impact were seen, it would be repealed as a failure and non-custodial parents would have a much more difficult battle in the future.

    • REPLY
      Brian says

      The arguments here make as much sense as past arguments against the abolition of slavery because of a potential impact on the economy.

      Awarding custody to a woman solely because of a sex bias is wrong. End of story. Making the point that if a father cared for the child 50% of the time, that the mother would get less child support is laughably illogical. Again, this organization is obviously biased.

  4. REPLY
    Rusty says

    I was in attendence to this hearing on Feb. 6. This organization had people that OPPOSED to these bills. They cant go back and say that they were neutral, because I was there, and I heard the opposition that they laid out there. Made absolutely no sense.

  5. REPLY
    Jason says

    I find it ironic that Wilson VS Wilson is nearly a quarter century old ruling that is a way for our judicial system to render decisions. The old way of the woman staying home and the man working in the fields is long gone. Bottom line is if everything is equal, I see no logical reasoning to suggest equal access to children should be guaranteed. Nebraskas constitutions guarantees this. It states ” Parents as well as children have undeniable equal access to one another”.

    To me this means even if my ex wants me suffer, as she knows the only thing she can hold against me is our son, she cannot do so. I have court in 2 weeks. To think that I didnt even get to see my judge, Judge Ashford, when i went to the temporary hearing, and lost by the way, is a crime. They take the emotions and the interactions away and do things behind closed doors. Now I get to look him in the eyes and when he renders his decisions he will have to know I am looking at him. My ex has made the last 8 months a living hell for me and my son.. I have taken my son to counceling since the beginning, on my dime and on the limited time I get with him to make sure he and I’s relationship remains strong. Its sad but I have taken every battery of tests to measure my ability to be a good father just to have an Expert Witness at our trial. This is not cheap but why did I have to do this?

  6. REPLY
    Sean says

    Nothing neutral about it. They must think men are stupid because we have let them discriminate this long.

  7. REPLY
    Brandy says

    I think my 2 daughters shouldnt have to go through this just because their mother is ignorant and just looking for an easy way out i just wish that people in Nebraska would get out of the past and get into the future there are alot of men out there that can raise their kids better than the Ex wife

  8. REPLY
    Amber says

    I completely agree that Nebraska needs to step into this century. Parenting should be 50/50. I was brow-beaten into not fighting for my son, his Dad has him. His Dad was abusive to me. I never called the police on him because I believed I deserved it. I was young and stupid. Today, I regret that decision, and know my son would be better off with me, as his Dad is depressed and on various medications. He is not working, just collecting child support, which I have struggled to provide, but have ALWAYS provided. This is not just a father issue, it’s a parent issue. I await the passing of this law to have equal parenting time with my son, who values both of his parents equally. No child should have to be without one of their parents just because a judge decides they should spend a majority of their time with one or the other. Money should not be a factor, period! Just like many of us, if you want to earn a living and do well, find a JOB! Do not expect to be able to stay at home and take care of your kids forever, that is not how society works these days. I have put myself through school, tried very hard to stay employed, sometimes to no avail. I still provided child support to my son. Why should his father get to stay at home and collect my $400 per month? How is this fair? It isn’t. I’m a great Mom, my son deserves to know me better. Every other weekend does not accomplish this. Parents deserve equal rights, especially when the other parent is a bully and uses the kids to get what he or she wants. That is not okay!

  9. REPLY
    Brad says

    If domestic violence has been reported or proven, it should then be CONSIDERED in matters of custody. If domestic violence is merely hearsay, then custody should always begin as 50/50. I would venture to estimate that emotional abuse is more common than physical abuse and is less commonly identified (or even investigated). The scars left by emotional abuse can be devastating and should be feared on equal grounds as physical abuse. When this State catches up with the rest of the nation (including neighboring conservative States), it will be a good day. When this country begins to deal with gay divorce and custody issues, maybe real reform will occur. Gender bias cannot come into play then….

  10. REPLY
    Alex says

    I don’t think that any of you are looking though the eyes of your children. As a child of divorce it would have been awful to be shuttled around back an forth from my parents house; having to make sure I had all of my school, sports and activity items together at all times and hoping I had everything. Also, my parents had a very high level of conflict and the more interactions they had, even as I got older, the harder it was on me and my brother. Parenting is not about the quantity of time the children spent which each parent. It is about the quality of the time. It is how your parent makes you fell and how they support you. How about the newest selection of evidence that says parents should be the ones moving back and forth from house to house and the children stay in one stable home with all of their belongings, in their school systems, with their social/community group? Here parents pack bags or buy separate sets of clothes for their child’s home and an apartment they also share. Parents do not deserve anything… children deserve to have stability and a sense of home and belonging. If parents could get along and make decisions together peacefully they’d be married. Instead we throw our children into harmful and destructive situations when indeed most reasons for divorce are to remove our children from these. Otherwise just don’t let people get divorces with out proof of abuse and make them work it out… for the kids.

    • REPLY
      Barb says

      Alex, it is not a kids job to make sure they have all their stuff. That’s what parents are there for. To CARE for the CHILD. A lot of polls and studies have shown that the grown kids that had some sort of trouble for being shuffled from home to home was worth it all to keep a relationship with both the parents. After all a home is not a home without your parent. It is just a house. Kids don’t need material things, they need the parents love to be taken account of! I saw my dad minimal time and wish I had more. Now I am an adult and agree that more time could have built a relationship with my dad. I’m sorry! You’re telling me that it will destroy a child to have both parents equally involved?! That they can only see on parent all the time and the other on the weekend? That dad can’t take the to school because it would harm the kids? Give me a break!

  11. REPLY
    Brandy says

    these bills will probably never get passed

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