Governor signs shared parenting bill

In a county where 34 percent of children live in a single-parent family and 42 percent receive subsidized kinship care from a grandparent [Kids County Data Center], a recently signed bill will now work to recognize what is best for the children in terms of joint custody arrangements.

Signed by Governor Matt Bevin on April 26, House Bill 528 is an act relating to joint custody that creates the “presumption that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child, and to require the court to consider the motivation of adults involved when determining the best interest of the child for custody orders…[and] to allow a parent not granted custody or shared parenting time to petition for reasonable visitation rights” [Kentucky Legislature HB528].

The HB was first introduced in the House of Representatives on February 26, 2018, passed the House 83-1 on March 19, passed the Senate 38-0 on April 13, went through the House’s final passage 81-2 on April 13 and was then signed by the Governor.

What exactly does this mean for Knox County families and those across the state? In a nutshell, both parents, as deemed fit, will have equal decision making and time with their children instead of one parent being granted primary custody and a second receiving visitation. Matt Hale, Kentucky’s Chairman of National Parent’s Organization, believes it will also reduce overall conflict, putting the child or children’s needs above everything else.

“One of the reasons why we push shared parenting bills is to reduce parental conflict. If you pit one parent against another in a winner-take-all, loser-lose-all battle, you’re creating conflict and that’s not good,” said Hale. “In the end, it’s the kids who lose. If you have two healthy parents, the children need to see both of those parents.”

Those who have researched shared parenting and spent immeasurable hours supporting the bill believe shared parenting laws will become the norm across the country, as other states have either already passed similar shared parenting laws or will soon follow suit. 

“The research on shared parenting is remarkably clear. Children who go through a divorce fare much better when they have equal, or as close to equal, parenting time,” said Dr. Ryan Schroeder, chair of the Sociology Department at the University of Louisville, who has thoroughly researched shared parenting. “The one exception is when there are cases of violence and it’s my understanding that this bill would eliminate that presumption in the case of violence.”

For more details about the shared parenting law and how it impacts Knox County, see Hale’s guest column.