Diamonds might be forever, but today 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the United States are not, according to the American Psychological Association’s divorce statistics.
Divorce can be a complicated, messy matter, especially for the 10 to 15 percent of couples who can’t reach a child custody agreement.
A committee of judges and attorneys assembled by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick two years ago, has proposed a number of changes to the state’s family court system.
"What we’re doing now is not working so well,” said task force member Ned Holstein, founder of the National Parents Organization, during a discussion with fellow task force member, divorce attorney Carolyn Van Tyne on Greater Boston on Thursday.
The task force recommended legislation encouraging judges to award no less than a third of a child’s time to each parent. They also seek to alter court vocabulary, replacing the word “custody” with “residential responsibility” and “visiting time” with “parenting time”, in an attempt to make family court less adversarial.
“When I was first practicing, the judges would always refer to a time that the dad would spend with the child as ‘visitation’,” said Van Tyne. “I may visit with a family member in Florida, I certainly would visit with someone who is in prison. I don’t ‘visit’ with my children. It’s offensive.”
Holstein acknowledged that certain aspects of a divorce proceeding, like division of custody, fall to the discretion of the court and would thus be difficult to legislate. "The legislation can’t handcuff a judge,” he said, “Every case will be different, every family will be different, so it has to be individualized. It’s not a straight-jacket, it’s not a mandate.”
Rather, the task force sought to draft legislation “encouraging judges to do what the research shows that kids thrive under,” continued Holstein. “It does encourage more splitting of time between the parents… It also gives the judges more tools to punish parents who are clearly interfering with the relationship between the child and the other parent. So it’s doing a lot of things.”
“You can’t legislate human behavior, but you can try to line the incentives up so that it’ll be better for the children.”
Watch the full segment below: