“I can’t breathe,” is how parents feel when they experience family court injustice. I have seen and heard so many parents’ stories about the unfairness they have experienced fighting for shared parenting. Yet, they still end up with an undeserved outcome.
Kentucky being the first state to implement a true 50/50 shared parenting bill, which Governor Matt Bevin signed into law April 26th 2018, should have made all Kentucky parents receive equal rights. We are hearing reports all over the state about parents receiving equal time in new custody cases. However, it seems as if some courts are still choosing profit over the best interest of the kids for those with existing child custody orders and thus already stuck in the child support system. Oddly, Kentucky’s new law applies to modifications of custody also stating that “there shall be a presumption, rebuttable by a preponderance of evidence, that it is in the best interest of the child for the parents to have joint custody and share equally in parenting time.” KRS 403.340
I, and other parents like me, cannot get 50/50 equal parenting time because we already pay into the child support system. However, other parents not already paying child support routinely receive 50/50 shared parenting thanks to Kentucky’s new law. So, is collecting the most child support the main reason why good parents and their precious kids cannot receive shared parenting?
Worse yet, while in the middle of a pandemic, I witnessed first-hand a parent that did not receive a stimulus check because he was a few months behind on his child support. Still worse, the child support deficit was due to a layoff beyond his control. Did his child not need food, clothes or shelter while she (he?) was with him? It seems to me and like everyone else that is all about profit and less about the best interest of the child.
In many states, child support policies do not promote shared parenting, which the majority knows is in the child’s best interest. Instead, they create disincentives to shared parenting. Many obligor parents are pushed below the poverty line by unrealistic child support obligations that prove impossible for them to meet. These obligations prevent them from fully participating in raising their children. How can you bond while teaching your child to ride a bike when you cannot afford a bike?
Kentucky’s shared parenting law is not only extremely popular but it is reducing domestic violence. This reduction is related to KRS 403.340 including “If domestic violence and abuse, as defined in KRS 403.720, is found by the court to exist” shared parenting does not apply. If the law is giving so many new case parents shared parenting and it is working so well, why are we still seeing parents struggling to get sole custody awards modified into equal time? Could it be that some courts do not want to give up the money flowing through them via child support?
Those courts need to start making changes soon because things are changing. They will eventually run out of custody orders from before Kentucky’s shared parenting law took effect. The voters already roared in support of shared parenting supportive lawmakers. Do judges, hesitant to modify sole custody arrangements, think the voters cannot roar during judicial elections too?
Jason Griffith is the Kentucky vice chair for the National Parents Organization.