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Boston, MA: Give dads more custodial privileges
By ERIK ARVIDSON, Sun Statehouse Bureau
Friday, September 30 2005 @ 01:48 PM CDT
Contributed by: BillBayJr
Views: 9
BOSTON -- State lawmakers have proposed legislation that would give fathers greater custodial rights of their children in divorce and separation cases.
State Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut, has filed a bill that would give temporary shared legal and physical custody to both parents, as long as both parents are considered by a judge to be fit.

Currently, judges determine the custody of a child based on what is in the child's best interest. But critics say that judges in child custody cases tend to favor the mother when determining sole custody of the child.

Garry, who is also a family law attorney, said that while the current law gives both parents shared legal custody, and both parents are involved in making parental decisions for the child, only one parent is given physical custody.

“Unfortunately, it really comes to a point that people are using their children as a bargaining chip. That's the most unfortunate part of all,” Garry said. “There are difficulties, such as who is going to have the children on Christmas Eve. But those are also problems in sole custody cases.”

Proponents of the bill cited the results of a nonbinding referendum in last November's election, in which 86 percent of the voters in 31 legislative districts in Massachusetts supported the concept of shared parenting.

The initiative asked people if they would instruct their legislator to vote in favor of legislation to create a “strong presumption” in favor of joint physical and legal custody.

Stephen Carrier, president of the Massachusetts Children's Rights Council, said there are numerous benefits to a child of a shared custody arrangement, including the fact that it cuts down on unnecessary litigation.

“Denying custody and limiting access tells a good parent that ‘You are no longer important or necessary to a child,'” Carrier said.

Opponents of so-called shared parenting laws argue that they do little to help the child, and are focused on making both parents feel important.

Some opponents also say that children are better off living in one home and sleeping in one bed, as opposed to traveling between the homes of each parent.

Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia have laws that presume legal custody to be shared by both parents, while eight other states allow for shared custody when both parents agree to it.

Garry's proposal still leaves it to the discretion of a judge to revoke a shared custody agreement in a situation where a member of the family abuses alcohol or drugs, or has deserted the child, and whether “have a history of being able and willing to cooperate in matters concerning the child.”

The bill is being considered by the Legislature's Judiciary Committee.