Tennessee House Considering Equal Parenting BillWritten by: Cameron Print This Article
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Tennessee Representative Mike Bell has submitted House Bill 2916 to change the law to provide for 50/50 equal parenting unless there is clear and convincing evidence that one or both parents are unfit to care for the children.
The text of the bill reads:
HOUSE BILL 2916
AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 36, Chapter 6, Part 1, relative to equal parenting.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:
SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 36-6-101, is amended by deleting subdivision (a)(2)(A)(i) in its entirety and substituting instead the following:
(i) Except as provided in this subdivision (a)(2)(A), the court shall have the widest discretion to order a custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. At any hearing to determine custody of a minor child, the court shall order that the child get equal time with each of the child’s parents unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that one (1) or both of the parents are unfit to care for the child. This section shall not be construed to prohibit both fit parents from voluntarily entering into a parenting plan that does not give the child equal time with each parent. This section shall not be construed to prohibit the court from giving the child less than equal time with a parent that does not seek equal time with the child. For the purpose of assisting the court in making a custody determination when a parent has been proven to be unfit, the court may direct that an investigation be conducted.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2010, the public welfare requiring it.
We fully support this bill. Children deserve time with both of their parents unless the parents are incapable of caring for the children. Even in cases in which a parent is flawed or is being portrayed wrongly as such, a child can still often benefit from spending time with that parent. The parent may teach the child from personal experiences the other parent has never had and help the child to appreciate that while everybody is different and each person has strengths and weaknesses, nearly everybody has experience and insights to offer the people around them. This especially includes their own children.
Children who are raised by only one parent have been consistently shown to suffer many disadvantages compared to those who have significant time with both parents.
The following grim statistics show the frightening consequences when a father is absent and demonstrates the importance of the bill:
- Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school as their classmates who live with two parents
- 75% of teen suicides occur in single-parent families
- Fatherless children are eleven times more likely than are children from intact families to exhibit violent behavior
- 80% of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes
- Children who live apart from their fathers experience more accidents and a higher rate of chronic asthma, headaches and speech defects
- 70% of the kids now incarcerated in juvenile corrections facilities grew up in a single-parent environment
This bill is unique and one of a kind. It has the potential to lay the groundwork for legislative change throughout the country.
While much of the media focus regarding this bill is on the idea that fathers will finally have a fair chance to spend time with their children despite a divorce, the bill is also important to mothers. It will help raise the bar on getting CPS agencies out of railroading one or both parents out of their children’s lives. It will also help ensure that mothers who have been unjustly cut out of their children’s lives will have another chance to spend significant time together once again.