Proposed child custody bill could set precedent

As the state of Utah addresses an aging family law system, accounting for the needs of contemporary families and changes in social standards, state policies come under review. For instance, state laws addressing issues like child custody arrangements can be amended to better reflect current trends. And while Utah legislators often focus their energy on matters specific to the state, they still sometimes look to measures passed in other states as models for their own proposals. That is why a bill that was recently proposed in another state may be of interest to Utah state lawmakers and family law experts.

 When discussing the proposed bill that recently passed the Illinois House Judiciary Committee recently, one clinical psychiatrist commented on the adversarial nature of current family law practices. According to the psychiatrist, the family legal system functions in a way that encourages conflict between divorcing parties and is counterproductive to developing objective child custody and visitation agreements. It’s for that reason that the psychiatrist supports a bill that was introduced by a Republican representative in the state.

The proposed piece of legislation would give family law judges the ability to develop a shared parenting plan in the event that parents do not establish their own agreement within 90 days. If the judge determined that the noncustodial parent was fit, he or she would automatically be granted 35 percent parenting time with the child.

Because state legislators are also considering a similar bill introduced by a Democrat representative, it is not known whether or not the Republican bill will pass. And while the measure has gained considerable support, critics argue that a specific formula for determining parenting time should not be included in the legislation.

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