Though still awaiting approval from outgoing Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell, The Pennsylvania House of Representatives put the finishing touches on a bill which intends to change the system for deciding how child custody matters shall be decided.

The new legislation is designed to ensure that both the father and the mother are treated equally within the child custody system, this according to Representative Eugene DePasquale (D-York, PA).  From the article:

Under his bill, DePasquale said courts would be prohibited from assuming that custody should be awarded to a particular parent based solely on gender.

Courts would have to consider several factors, including which parent is more likely to encourage and permit frequent contact with the other parent; the parental duties of each parent; the need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life; and access to siblings and other extended family.

While this is generally how most family court systems are supposed to be operating, by far the most important part of this legislation is the provision that would require the court to provide a documented explanation for its ruling.  While this doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, guarantee that the balance of custody will shift in the direction of 50/50 shared parenting or tip the scales back towards fathers having more primary or sole custody, it does provide some semblance of accountability for a judge’s decision.

One area that may prove to be cause for concern is that the bill also provides for allowing particular attention to be paid to protecting victims of domestic violence.  While we’re all for such a measure, if there is one area of family court and criminal law where a clear and present bias towards men and fathers exists – it’s the area of domestic violence.  False accusations of abuse are at or near the top “dirty tactics” used in child custody cases to tip the eventual results in the false accuser’s favor.  We’ll simply have to take a wait-and-see position on this specific item should Governor Ed Rendell sign the bill into law.

The bill also touches on relocation child custody cases as well as puts some excellent requirements on both parents in contested child custody cases.

To see the full article, click here: Pa. House approves changes to child custody system

To contact Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s office to voice your support for approval of this legislation, click here: Pennsylvania Governor Contact Information