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Update on fathers' rights expansion

Last week we talked about how fathers' rights may be expanded in one more state, South Dakota. The majority of states decide the issue of primary child custody according to what parent will be the child's primary caregiver. Often under the primary caregiver perspective the parental rights of fathers is often overlooked. Recently a bill that would change the primary child custody law to a presumption of shared custody was introduced and passed by the South Dakota House of Representatives. Advocates of the bill say it will provide greater rights for divorced fathers.

The bill would start child custody issues in the state on a different foot. Divorce filings would begin with the presumption that the mother and father would share physical custody of the children. If a judge decides not to rule in favor of equal shared physical custody, the bill requires the judge to provide an explanation. The bill still allows for judges to decide what arrangement would be in the best interest of the child.

Advocates of the bill say that children of divorce whose parents have shared custody perform better in school and experience fewer mental health problems. Opponents of the bill say that divorced children whose parents share equal custody will be forced to live out of suitcases and children whose parents live in different towns will face greater hardship. One lawmaker who supports the bill and shares custody said that his daughter does well in school because of both parents' concern. He also said his family's example shows that shared physical and legal custody "works very well."

Source: ArgusLeader.com, "House OKs custody change," John Hult, 2/23/11

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