Many divorced fathers in Michigan feel that the state's family court system is broken and is relying on outdated and discriminatory legislation written nearly 50 years ago.
State House Representative Jim Runestad (44th District) is the Chair of the Judiciary Committee and he has proposed a new bill that aims for a more equally shared parenting experience. He says the bill focuses on what's best for the children.
The new bill would require judges to start at a presumption of 50/50 equally shared parenting time between two actively involved parents. But it is only a starting point and not an automatic mandate.
Opponents to the bill say that it would put children at risk for domestic violence or abuse and that the system focuses more on the parents' desires than the children's needs.
Runestad counters by stating that there are safety measures in place that would immediately remove the equal time presumption. Included among those measures are evidence of domestic violence or abuse, false allegations of abuse, refusal to cooperate and parental alienation.
"We have taken a lot of time to craft the potential situations that can come up," Runestad said. "This allows the courts to deal with them individually but the starting point for loving, caring, and fit parents is equality."
Runestad stated that over 50 international studies from over 100 experts have come to the same conclusion - equal time is the best arrangement for the vast majority of children.
Runestad added that many lawyers and judges are familiar with the current system and don't want it changed as it would reduce the amount of money the current system extracts from families contesting for custody of their children.
Rep. Runestad will be hosting a Michigan Family Court and Child Custody Town Hall meeting on August 21 from 6-8 p.m. at 401 Hall Street, Suite 2D2. Runestad encourages all of those with questions or comments about the proposed bill to attend.
You can see the full interview here.