Home once more passes invoice to make 50/50 custody preparations the usual | Information

CHARLESTON – For the second consecutive year, the West Virginia House of Delegates has passed legislation making custody arrangements the standard for 50/50.

According to House Bill 2363, the “Best Interests of Child Protection Act,” the courts should assume that joint legal and physical custody, including the same amount of time spent with both parents, is best for the child, provided that no other conditions such as abuse are met.

Currently, the standard is based on who does most of the care activities like feeding and clothing, with a child spending at least 35% of their time with the other parent.

HB 2363 would also allow parents to reopen their cases and try to get 50/50 custody.

Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, main sponsor of the bill, said parents wanted to hang out with their children and that it was disrupting the judicial system. As a child of a 50/50 divorce, Foster believes these types of arrangements are in the best interests of most children.

Foster has introduced the legislation in recent years, and the bill was passed in 2020. He cites the analysis of Richard Warshak, author of a book called Divorce Poison.

While that analysis found that studies “favor parenting plans that more evenly balance children’s time between homes” and that both parents “should maximize the time they spend with their children,” it does not say that lawmakers Should set a 50/50 default custody template.

Indeed, the analysis says avoiding templates that require a certain division of time that is imposed on all families.

Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, said she agrees that there are problems within the system. Quoting an editorial by a retired family court judge, Walker said some ways to help are to have ad litems or mediators for guardians at every custody trial and to ensure that family court judges are experienced.

Walker, also a 50/50 child of divorce, said with tears in his eyes that the trauma of living with her alcoholic father remained with her.

She said she had a conversation with her father about the bill and he told her he drugged the custody process because he knew his ex-wife couldn’t afford it. The judge asked Walker who she wanted to live with, and she said both.

Lawyers are not appointed in civil family court cases.

Kentucky passed similar laws in 2017. Foster said cases in family courts fell 11%, but Kentucky law did not allow old cases to be reopened.

The bill went 68-31 with an absentee. It is now going to the Senate for examination. The Senate passed the bill last year, but the entire body ran out of time to approve changes before the session ended, and the bill was killed.

Reporter Taylor Stuck can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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