August 14, 2022

Senators again explore 50-50 custody presumption in divorce scenarios

West Virginia senators are once again taking into consideration how considerably fat must be presented to a presumption of equal custody in divorce circumstances.

Senate Invoice 463 would require courts to take into account irrespective of whether fifty-fifty custody would work out for youngsters and family members.

The Senate Judiciary Committee talked over a revised version of the “Best Interests of the Baby Act” on Friday afternoon. The bill would have deliberations in family courts start out with a presumption of fifty-fifty custody, assess regardless of whether that is possible and, if it is not, lay out why not.

Customers of the committee explored the possible ramifications of the bill for about two and a half several hours Friday afternoon and then handed it.

Jeb Pinkerton, a father from Berkeley County, instructed senators about his troubles. “The 1st matter I did was talk to for 50-50 custody. The choose really shushed me,” he mentioned.  New lawyers arrived and went and legal fees piled up. His ordeals led him to discovered a group called “West Virginians For Shared Parenting.”

“I came below to be the father my daughter justifies. But I also appear for so numerous others,” he advised senators.

Balancing custody is an concern that has appear up 12 months-right after-12 months in the Legislature. Previous calendar year, lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee taken out a presumption of 50-50 custody, supplying judges extra overall flexibility. And the House of Delegates handed a in the same way-themed invoice in 2020. 

Other states like Kentucky and Arkansas have not too long ago handed equivalent custody guidelines, with other states also thinking of them.

The bill released to West Virginia’s Senate this yr concludes, “It is the community coverage of the condition of West Virginia to recognize the presumption, overwhelmingly supported by social science analysis, that co-equal joint custody and similarly divided parenting time is in the finest desire of kids.”

A divorce legal professional who spoke to the committee today disagreed with that presumption.

“Fifty-fifty or co-equal parenting generally performs perfectly with mom and dad who concur to that. When mother and father are not able to agree or there are fundamental problems that would generate troubles with that, I have identified that is not the circumstance. The boy or girl suffers in individuals circumstances,” mentioned Amanda Ray, a Morgantown attorney who spoke just before the committee.

The bill notes that steps in the courtroom method may reveal that equivalent joint custody is not basically in the ideal curiosity of the kid. A single exception would be scenarios where by the mom and father have consensually reached an arrangement on allocation of parenting time — or if a single of the events does not request sole, major or joint custody.

Added exceptions would take place if just one of the mother and father has committed an act of domestic violence towards the other or if 1 of the get-togethers is a sex offender.

Deanna Rock

Deanna Rock, a loved ones courtroom decide in Mineral County, explained to lawmakers now those provisions could consequence in unintended and unlucky effects.

“I assume it is heading to lead to an raise in the filings of domestic violence and CPS reviews,” mentioned Rock, citing the adversarial way of thinking that members in custody situations often provide to the courts.

“People are heading to be put in determined cases, and I believe they’re heading to file allegations against the other guardian.” In these predicaments, she mentioned, “Those little ones will know no peace.”

She argued towards starting up with a presumption of 50-50 custody, expressing that would make lots of custody battles even even worse. “There’s way too a lot animosity for this presumption to not be developing more animosity,” she mentioned.

Peter Conley

Peter Conley, a family court docket decide in Harrison County, advised senators “Every one scenario is different.” He, as well, described a misunderstanding in presuming equivalent custody is really in the curiosity of the kid. “How does that baby look at it? How is this strategy likely to impact the very well-remaining of the baby?”

“You simply cannot hope to forecast all the unique combos of points and scenarios that we see on a each day basis,” he reported.