LINCOLN — A bill seeking equal parenting time in child custody cases has stalled in a legislative committee.
The eight members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee were split this week on a vote to indefinitely postpone Legislative Bill 22. Although the so-called “shared parenting” bill remains technically alive, the vote revealed that it lacks the five votes necessary to advance it to the floor for full debate.
The bill is part of a broader equal parenting time movement being supported by fathers, as well as mothers, step-mothers and grandparents.
State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber made the bill his priority, although it was introduced by Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney.
“I think it’s a good bill,” Hadley said. “It has a lot of support. We’ll keep trying.”
As long as it is not killed, the bill could be reconsidered next session. Chris A. Johnson, a Hastings attorney who supports the legislation on behalf of clients who get little or no child visitation, said it’s disappointing that some committee members won’t allow the proposal to be debated.
“If the bill stalls in committee, I’m certain there will be more bills introduced next year designed to accomplish a similar result,” he said.
The bill would require judges to grant joint legal custody and maximum parenting time to both parents, as long as they believed was is in a child’s best interest.
Under current law, judges decide parenting plans when couples can’t reach agreement.
In about 60 percent of Nebraska cases, mothers are awarded sole custody while joint custody is ordered about 30 percent of the time. Fathers get sole custody in about 10 percent of cases.
Child advocates oppose the bill, saying it could expose children to more contact in cases in which the parents fight over nearly every decision. Research has shown that such conflict is very damaging to children. Other opponents argued that in cases of domestic violence, requiring shared parenting could endanger some parents and children.
Proponents pointed to research that shows children who have substantial, regular contact with both parents enjoy better physical and emotional health and perform better in school.
Several states have enacted shared parenting laws, including Florida and Arkansas this year.
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