A group of legislators in New Hampshire is proposing to make joint custody or shared parenting a presumption in the state. Here’s a story from The Nashua Telegraph. The package of two bills the legislators are proposing would seek to encourage parents to plan together how they will take care of their children, operating from the premise that â€œChildren do best when both parents have a stable and meaningful involvement in their lives.â€
The big step is in the Presumption of Shared Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, however, which states that “In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall be guided by the presumption that equally shared parent rights and responsibilities are in the childâ€™s best interest.â€
There’s plenty of controversy on this issue in New Hampshire and elsewhere, with fathers’ rights advocates aligned squarely in the “equal” camp, and family lawyers often favoring a more flexible approach.
[Fathers’ Rights advocate Rep. David] Bickford argues divorce should be viewed as restructuring families, not trying to preserve old arrangements.
Right now the whole thing is based on looking for who the better parent is or who the primary caretaker was,â€ Bickford said.
Weâ€™ve got to talk about what weâ€™re going to do tomorrow, not what we did yesterday. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s important, that both parents continue to parent to the best of their abilities, not throw one parent out to the salt mines.
Family lawyers see it differently.
â€œThere are a lot of lawyers who do divorce work who are very skeptical about the idea,â€ [New Hampshire Bar Association Spokesman Dan] Wise said. â€œThey think thatâ€™s sort of a parentsâ€™ rights view of the situation,â€ rather than being focused on whatâ€™s best for children.
â€œI think they are trying to tip the scales in terms of this perceived power imbalance, which I frankly donâ€™t see,â€ [Amherst divorce lawyer Honey] Hastings said. â€œI donâ€™t think there is a bias (against men). . . . I havenâ€™t seen it.â€