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Lawmakers make history with passage of shared parenting bill

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Last week members of the senate judicial committee made history when they became the first lawmakers to favorably pass a shared parenting bill in Kansas.

SB 157 was filed in February with a stunning 17 bipartisan sponsors. Shared parenting (equal physical time with two fit parents after divorce/separation) has widespread support among men and women, Republicans and Democrats and across every age and racial group. Our family-friendly legislators have finally officially joined a growing list of lawmakers all over the nation supporting shared parenting.

Senate President Susan Wagle helped sponsor the bill and recently said, “Children deserve consistent love and care from both parents, but all too often our judicial system does not treat fathers fairly in custody decisions. Senate Bill 157 encourages a much-needed shared parenting arrangement, allowing children to benefit fully from having an involved mother and father in their life.”

A recent Kansas statewide survey on shared parenting shows 80 percent support the new law while 2 percent oppose. It is nearly unprecedented to see these kind of numbers in lawmaking.

Eighty-seven percent of Kansans said they believe it is in the best interests of the child to have as much time as possible with both fit parents.

Assuming the bill’s likely advancement, Kansas will join neighboring Missouri, also poised to pass shared parenting soon. Several other states have recently passed overwhelmingly popular shared parenting laws, including Kentucky and Virginia last year.

This year more than 20 states have introduced similar legislation. Many of these states are doing much more than considering these bills. Over the last month, Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa and Minnesota committees have all advanced shared parenting laws.

Statistics for children who are not allowed to have continuing, meaningful relationships with both parents are sobering. Children raised by just one parent account for 65 percent of teen suicides; 71 percent of high school drop-outs; 75 percent in chemical abuse centers; and 90 percent of homeless and runaway children.

The state of Kansas has just taken big steps to solve some major problems in our family court system, and our legislators are making history in the process. I urge those interested in the passage of this law to contact their legislators.

Will Mitchell is chairman of the National Parents Organization in Kansas. To learn more about how to help change our outdated family courts, contact him at willmitchell@nationalparentsorganization.org

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