SCS/SB 964 - This act modifies several provisions relating to child custody orders. Under current law, joint physical custody is defined as an order awarding each of the parents "significant, but not necessarily equal" periods of time with a child. This act changes that definition to "approximate and reasonably equal" time with the child to assure the child of "substantial, frequent, continuing, and meaningful" contact with both parents.
This act also creates that a rebuttable presumption that, when a court is determining physical custody, a parenting plan equalizing to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent who is fit and willing is in the best interests of the child. The State Courts Administrator shall develop a parenting plan form that parties shall use. The parenting plan form shall be made readily available and easily accessible to interested persons.
This act prohibits the court from presuming that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, is more qualified than the other parent to be a joint or sole legal or physical custodian of a child. Additionally, if one parent requests joint legal or physical custody and the court determines such request not to be in the child's best interests, the court shall include in the custody order a written finding specifying the reasons for denying the request.
If the court finds that a parent, without good cause, has violated an order for custody, visitation, or third-party custody for a second or subsequent time, the court may deem such violation as a material change of circumstances and may order a modification to the custody order to award sole custody to the aggrieved party.
Finally, this act requires the court to hold an expedited hearing upon the motion of a parent to modify a prior custody order, upon a showing of good cause.
This act is substantially similar to provisions in SS#2/SCS/HCS/HB 1550 (2016) and HB 2055 (2016), and similar to HB 2460 (2016), and SB 1115 (2016).