Matt Hale believes the most popular law to be passed in Kentucky this year might be the one regarding shared parenting.
The law, HB 528, took affect July 14 after passing the general assembly this year.
Hale, Kentucky chairman of the National Parents Organization, said the law creates a presumption that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child. He also said it gives 11 factors that would negate the presumption, including a parent's drug addiction or history of domestic violence.
"The definition of shared parenting is equal decision making (often called "joint custody") and equal physical parenting time," Hale said.
The 11 factors that would negate presumption that are considered include: the child's wishes; the parents' wishes; other family issues; the parents' motivations; the child's adjustment and continuing proximity to his/her community and loved ones; the parents' involvement in the chid's life; domestic violence; the parents' physical and mental health; the likelihood one parent will cooperate with the other one; the child's relationship with a de facto custodian; and the parents' intent when the de facto custodian relationship was established. Judges also have judicial discretion to weigh multiple issues and make findings, Hale said.
The law has been well received, according to Hale.
"Polling clearly shows that Kentucky's citizens believe kids have the right to see both parents equally if the adults are fit," he said. "The bill passed the House 81 to 2 and the Senate unanimously because our lawmakers know research shows shared parenting laws decrease parental conflict and improve children's lives."
A recent poll by Public Policy Polling shows that about six to one Kentuckians who know about the law support it, with 84 percent saying they agree a child would benefit from having equal time with both fit parents following a divorce. Seventy percent also believe that family courts are more likely to give fathers less than equal parental rights.
However, there are some who worry a parent who shouldn't be granted joint custody now can under the law.
"The law has eleven different factors of which any single factor can stop a parent from getting custody," Hale said. "These factors are wide ranging such as mental health to distance apart to domestic violence so they provide children lots of protection. Neither the old law nor the new one can perfectly predict a parent's future behavior but this new shared parenting law considers more factors and is a serious improvement."
HB 528 also comes a year after the general assembly passed a law creating a presumption of shared parenting during temporary custody orders.
Hale said the bills are a great day for Kentucky as Republicans and Democrats came together "basically unanimously to do what's best for kids."
"HB 528 promotes shared parenting as a starting point following divorce cases," Gov. Matt Bevin said. "The aim is to reduce unnecessary custody battles while also factoring in clearly defined exceptions. This common-sense legislation is another example of how Kentucky is leading the way in the protection and care of our young people."
Rachel Adkins contributed to this story.
Jonathan Greene is the editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.