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Opposition to LB 844 – Changes to Parenting Act increase opportunity for conflict in Parenting Plans

February 9, 2012

To: Members of the Judiciary Committee

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

Re: Opposition to LB 844 – Increasing Opportunity for Conflict in Parenting Plans

Children grow best in stable, loving families where they have access to the social, emotional, and physical support that allow for healthy development. Family stability is not always possible, however. Every year in Nebraska, about 6,000 children are impacted by the divorce of their parents. In 2010, 6,251 children were affected by divorce.[1] Divorce proceedings and court decisions directly impact the conflict, confusion, and instability that children experience during a vulnerable time in their life.

Voices for Children in Nebraska was involved in bringing a group of court stakeholders together in establishing the original framework of the Nebraska Parenting Act in 1993. The idea was to “soften the blow of divorce” and ensure that the best interest of children was central in divorce proceedings. Voices for Children participated in subsequent improvements and changes in 2007.

Voices for Children opposes LB 844 because it increases the opportunity for drawing out conflict in the lives of children and families and removes the best interest of the child from what should be its central position in a number of ways:

  1. A required annual accounting of how child support payment is spent at the request of the payer.
  2. Insertion of financial and child support provisions into the Parenting Plan, taking the focus away from the child.
  3. A requirement that the Supreme Court establish guidelines for court-created Parenting Plans that assume parenting time to be shared equally by all parties. Courts create Parenting Plans only in the most contentious cases, and this assumption could cause further conflict and have negative impacts on cases that involve domestic violence.

The well-being and best interest of children must be the primary consideration when setting policy that relates to divorce proceedings. Children thrive in stable environments, not when they put in the middle of conflict between their parents. We urge you to indefinitely postpone LB 844. Thank you.

[1] Kids Count in Nebraska 2011 Report. Voices for Children in Nebraska.

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  1. REPLY
    David says

    Lb844 needs to be passed. The way laws are now are slanted and ridiculously unfair. Many studies have been done that support equal parenting time and that its in the best interest of children. Some circumstances do happen where one parent should be limited on their parenting time, but it should not be a standard. This is obviously someones personal opinion because of her own personal past.

  2. REPLY
    Anonymous says

    I believe you should re think LB844. Parents need equal rights you are assuming that just because one parent has a child it is going to be loving and etc. We went two years with hardly seeing our grandchildren which they were at our house almost every day before the break up. How can this be best for the kids. You have to know that these kids do not have a lot of contact with fathers for the most part. Look at the stats I can go on forever with the problems of not having joint custody.

  3. REPLY
    Jean Caddell says

    If joint custody were in place, it would be a resolution to the conflict. Anger and conflict are the outcome of unfair laws. My son is a loving father who only wants equal time with his daughter. Our nation is founded on equality. When that is in jeopardy, resentment, anger, and conflict arise. Why is this different?

  4. REPLY
    Sarah Forrest says

    Thanks all for your feedback. We’re still clarifying our position for the upcoming hearing on the Parenting Act. (This page is our testimony from 2012’s hearing)

    Our position has never been to oppose equal parenting time. Kids need and deserve good relationships with both parents whenever possible! What we have opposed in the past is putting a presumption in the law that assumes equal parenting time in all cases.

    In cases of domestic violence, a presumption of equal time puts the children involved at risk. We need to make sure that children at risk of being exposed to such violence get the parenting plan that is safest for them depending on their circumstances.

    As it currently stands, the courts decide based on what is in the child’s best interest. which doesn’t prohibit equal parenting time from happening. In fact, looking back through the data we see that the numbers of joint custody cases have been on the rise in the last decade.

  5. REPLY
    Kristi Newsam says

    Shared custody does not mean children will not have a stable environment. Parents provide stability when they choose to put childish behavior behind them. Equality between parents is an absolute must. Children deserve both their parents. Our judicial system has an obligation to our children. It’s agreed that children need the financial support of both parents, so why on earth would children not need the emotional and psychological support of both parents? The law SHOULD assume equal parenting time until there is reason to believe that one parent is truly abusive. The false allegations that mother’s often make are ridiculous and certainly unfounded in many cases. Of course children should not be placed in danger, but there needs to be more shared custody. Allowing mother’s to have sole custody does anything but encourage a respectful co-parenting relationship. What about the emotional abuse when mother’s alienate father’s from even their minor time of weekends? When they are forced to choose which parent they love more or want to be with? When they are coerced to lie to authorities or child protective services? These issues are seldom addressed in the court system. These are considered trivial and petty to the judges that don’t want to take the time to resolve these issues. So they refuse to make the necessary changes and claim there is parental conflict so shared custody is not possible.

    The courts in no way decide what is in the best interest of the child at the current time. The increased of shared custody cases are on the rise because father’s are finally standing up for their rights. Society has seen the negative effects of fatherless children and are now trying to right the wrong that has been done.

  6. REPLY
    richard maxwell says

    I currently made a baby boy. When the DNA test came back she fled the state not caring about my rights as a father. She changed her nimbera and I never heard from her again. I don’t know where the are but I never net him but she tried to put me on child support and they denied it. It makes me sick to my stomach

  7. REPLY
    Concerned mother says

    I do not support this bill at all. The state can’t keep up on abuse cases as it is. How many children will be harmed by mandating equal custody. Not all parents are qualified to raise children. Just because you have a child doesn’t mean you are a good parent. Emotional abuse is difficult to prove, who will protect these children when they are forced to spend time with the abuser.

    This bill is wrong. The judge should be allowed to approve whatever parenting plan is right and just for the child.

  8. REPLY
    Brad says

    In a typical divorce situation, protocal for custody is the Father has the children in an every other weekend scenario. Since most opposing this Bill are concerned about potential abuse, it can be assumed that the Father is typically considered the abuser. Imagine being a non-abusive Father and paying the price for this “potential.” Can this not be classified as discriminatory? I happen to fall into this category and my children have suffered. Empathize with the children and non-abusive Fathers for just a moment… Is there another example in modern law in which you are guilty until proven innocent (if you are even given the opportunity to prove innocence)?
    When domestic violence has been reported before divorce, these cases need to be handled differently. And let’s not forget, mental and emotional abuse are rarely considered and should be.

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