The Senate today passed Sen. Alan Clark’s SB 18 to alter child custody and visitation law to favor joint custody unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence to the contrary. The vote was 31-2.
Clark said he was motivated by a belief that fathers aren’t being treated fairly. The state’s judges and lawyers oppose the legislation and have developed an alternative that would say the standard for altering custody or visitation should be the “preponderance of the evidence,” which is the standard for other aspects of domestic relations cases.
Sen. Missy Irvin said the existing law harms a parent, husband or wife, because it discriminates against those who can’t afford to challenge court decisions. She and other supporters said custody decisions should begin with a presumption in favor of two parents. That is the existing standard in court, but the standard for deviating from it isn’t as high as Clark is seeking.
Clark said he expected the law would face stout opposition in the House and that he expected the bill to be amended, but he wanted the Senate to pass the bill as currently written. He complained of late-arriving criticism of the bill, though Sen. Stephanie Flowers noted that a judge had testified against the bill in committee.
Flowers said the bill would tie judge’s hands “in telling courts what’s in the best interest of children.”
I suspect the vote was overwhelming because some potential opponents didn’t want to go on the record with an expectation it will be coming back to the Senate with House amendments. I hope so in any case.