Pennsylvania State Representative, Robert E. Belfanti Jr., has reintroduce the bill that he sponsored late in the last session (2007-2008; HB 2685). Please contact your state representative and encourage their co-sponsorship of the reintroduced bill, PA HB 463.

The Presumptive Joint-Custody law, would offer a rebuttable presumption of equal custody of their children to each parent. The bill requires parents to submit a parenting plan (parenting agreement) and offers the presiding judge the authority to order counseling for them. Further, it would leave the door open for appeals by both parents for alternative custody arrangement than a shared parenting arrangement.

Currently, Pennsylvania decides most custody cases on a case-by-case basis with the presiding judge making such decisions with the alleged focus on “the best interest of the child.”

Contrary to the vocal few who oppose this bill, it does very little to change the current methodology with one tremendously powerful exception – without meaningful evidence to show differently, both parents are rightfully presumed to be fit, willing, and able to provide love, care, and nurturing to the children born of the relationship.

The reality is that now, mothers are awarded primary/sole custody in over 80% of cases and that’s not because 80% of fathers are unwilling, unable, or otherwise incapable of being a meaningful part of their children’s lives. Outcomes for children without a father a part of their lives in a meaningful capacity are not good. Poorer grades, poorer decision-making ability, early experimentation with drugs and alcohol, higher teen pregnancy rates, and more are all significantly more likely. Combating such outcomes is not met by seemingly standardized every-other-weekend and a dinner visit custody orders. Shared parenting does.

Many lawyers and bar association organizations are against these types of laws and openly offer very thin arguments as to why they object, often citing an erosion of “best interests.” However, when you recognize that such legislation offers divorcing parents the opportunity to demonstrate why pushing a parent to the fringes of the children’s lives is in their best interests, you can plainly see that such arguments are without merit. The bottom line is, one of the expected outcomes of such legislation is a reduction in legal wars which impacts the income of lawyers whose livelihoods are predicated on lengthy custody battles.

Rebuttable presumption of shared parenting legislation is slowly making inroads across the United States. Help Pennsylvania join the others who have recognized that children need both parents. Equalizing the parenting field from the get-go will go a long way towards getting fit fathers and mothers back into their children’s lives, where they’ve always belonged. The dramatic increase in the potential positive outcomes for children is too obvious to ignore. Shared parenting works.

Find your PA State Legislators here: PA Legislator Finder

When you speak with the representatives, or their offices, ask them to contact Representative Belfanti’s office.  Call office contact Danielle Caley (717) 787-5780 or “Caley, Danielle” to inquire about their sponsorship.

Information on the reintroduction and a copy of the proposed legislation can be found at the following link: House Bill 463, Regular Session 2009-2010.