More than 50 state lawmakers support child custody law reform

The bill would give judges more power to punish parents who don't comply with time orders

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts joins nearly twenty other states in the country looking to update its child custody laws.

The Boston-based National Parents Organization believes the state’s child custody law is outdated and does not fit the modern family. The overhaul bill would allow children to spend more time with the non-custodial parent, typically the father.

President of the National Parents Organization Ned Holstein told 22News, “It decreases hostility and bitterness between parents. It treats them more fairly. It encourages judges to favor a parent who is cooperating with the other parent.”

Opponents believe the bill is centered too much on the parents and does not put enough emphasis on the children. Women’s Bar Association Kim Doughterty said, “Parents who deserve custody will get custody if it’s in the best interest of the child.”

The bill would encourage family court judges to award at least one-third of the parenting time to each parent after the divorce. It would also give judges more power to punish parents who do not comply with time orders. One state lawmaker told 22News the state should slowly implement changes to the child custody law.

“You move things gradually. You don’t want to necessarily throw the family court into a tizzy,” said State Rep. Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk).

The bill must win approval from the legislature’s Judiciary Committee before it can reach the House floor for a vote. Much of the bill is inspired by a state working group established by former Governor Deval Patrick.

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