Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shared Parenting Meetings with Indiana Legislators

The Indiana General Assembly met in special session on Thursday June 11, 2009 for the purpose of working on the state budget. The day started with legislators drifting into the building where most proceeded to caucus meetings. Between these sessions I was able to get some time with the legislators to discuss the upcoming session and the need for Shared Parenting legislation.

The House was scheduled to assemble at 1:00pm to consider the budget and did come to order around 1:45. About an hour later the House had adjourned following what appeared to be bitter arguments over fast tracking of the CIB bill which Bosma referred to as a gaming bill but the Democratic leader said had no gaming references in it.

Meeting with Senator Taylor - An additional meeting has been set for Thursday 18 June 2008 to draft an amendment to Indiana's paternity law which was amended by HB1511 from the 116th session. I would like to see factor four removed which states, "The interaction and interrelationship of the child with: (A) the child’s parent or parents;(B) the child’s sibling;and (C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests". The factors from marriage were adopted for custody decisions in paternity actions but this factor should not apply because of the unique circumstances in some paternity actions. Often times a father was not aware of having fathered a child until such time as he or the mother files a paternity action. Unlike in divorce proceedings the father may have never had the opportunity to be involved with the child prior to the paternity action and to use that as a factor in opposing the father having custody is a bias against the child establishing contact with his or her father and does not serve the best interest of the child.

Meeting with Senator Kruse - Senator Kruse introduced SB560 in the 116th session which would have required judges in divorce or paternity proceedings to presume that a child has the right to equal access to both parents and that specific findings must be made to justify a deviation from that standard. This bill will be introduced again in the upcoming session.

Meeting with Representative Pond - Representative Pond is a longtime advocate of Shared parenting and will again be introducing a Shared Parenting bill. Pond has pushed for passage of her legislation for the past few sessions but her bill has not made it out of committee. We are hoping to find some bipartisan support for the bill this session.

Meeting with Representative Thompson - Representative Thompson has been a long time advocate of Shared Parenting and has again expressed his support. I will be discussing further with Representative Thompson past bills he has authored or sponsored that did not get a vote.

I had brief discussions with various legislators to keep the issue of Shared Parenting on their agenda. The opportunity for meeting times was very limited between caucus hearings and the assembly on the House floor. Many discussions took place through the hallways or even on the street en route to other meetings.

The most interesting meeting of the day took place after the Statehouse session ended when I went to visit a prominent attorney in the hospital. About 15 minutes after I arrived one of the legislators that I was unable to speak with during the day arrived and we were able to have a brief discussion there.

This was a very productive day in which additional contacts were made and more commitments to children's right to access to both parents was made by our Indiana legislators. 2010 will see the introduction of more Shared Parenting bills and under the coordinated efforts of all involved the children of Indiana should see legislation passed to ensure their right to access both parents is upheld.

Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

No comments: