Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 HB 1044 Joint Legal Custody - Indiana

House Bill 1044, introduced on 07 January 2009, is sponsored by Representative Phyllis Pond of Fort Wayne. Representative Pond is a strong supporter of Shared Parenting and sits on the Indiana Child Support and Custody Committee.

HB1044 provides that in actions for child custody a judge is to presume that both parents are fit to have the right to make the legal decisions regarding the upbringing of their children. This includes medical care decisions, education and religious training.

This bill has been introduced in past sessions and has been defeated in committee. Feminist groups have strongly opposed any legislation that would cut away from the substantially disproportionate findings by Indiana courts that generally only women are qualified to make rational decisions regarding the care and upbringing of children.

Another strong supporter of Shared Parenting, Cindy Noe, who represents portions of Boone County would become the Chair of the Indiana Child Support and Custody Committee if the Republicans were to win a majority in the Indiana House.

This bill only applies to legal custody but if passed would be a start towards providing for the presumption that children should continue in the pre-separation joint physical custody in which they had lived. Our Indiana Supreme Court has recognized and promotes that children need Shared Parenting and that it is in their best interest. However, while that is being put into law and practice in other states Indiana has failed to do so and our children are being neglected because of it.

Stuart Showalter encountered an example of this the week prior to testifying before the Indiana Child Support and Custody Committee. He was in Indianapolis with a concerned father at a CHiNS case where the FCM reported that the only food in the mother's house was what had been spilled on the floor, was infected with bugs and was being eaten by the toddler. That the adolescent girls report that the mother's boyfriend regular observes them in the bathroom, that the oldest child had run away and that all children feared living in that house. Yet this is what a judge had determined was in those "children's best interest".

Had the judge who ordered those children into that neglectful situation instead been instructed, through statute, to submit findings as to why Shared Parenting would not have been best for these children then they likely would not be in that situation.

While other states have passed or debated Shared Parenting bills Indiana still has not although the need for this has clearly been recognized. Generally these statutes require family law judges to presume that both biological parents interacted with, provided for and supported their children. Instead of the parents having to show that they have done this, so custody can be awarded to them, the State would have to find that a parent had not done this before depriving the children of access to that parent.

We support HB1044 and encourage you to contact your legislators and ask them to support HB1044.

Click on the banner for more information and the complete text of HB 1044.

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