Bill encouraging joint custody gets first hearingby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The House Civil Law Committee hears testimony Tuesday evening on a bill that aims to make joint child custody the norm in cases where parents are separated.
Proponents say the legislation would make it easier for a father who isn't married to his children's mother to see his kids.
"In family court, when you've got two fit parents, there is no reason to take one parent out of the lives of those children. Especially at a time when children need both parents most," said Molly Olson, director of an advocacy group called the Center for Parental Responsibility.
But several groups are lining up to oppose the bill, including the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.
Liz Richards, director of programming for the coalition, said the bill would assume joint custody, which could hurt children.
"It takes away the ability to look at the individual needs of a family and the individual needs of a child," Richards said. "To remove best interests of children as our standard and replace it with parental access -- that is a radical change in our policies. It really moves children into this sort of commodity."
Richards said her group is also concerned the bill doesn't provide enough safety for children whose parents have a history of abuse.
The bill has support from several Republican and DFL House members.
If the Civil Law Committee approves the bill, it would go to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. So far, there is no companion bill in the Senate.
(MPR reporter Brandt Williams contributed to this report.)