Amended equal custody bill advances in Tennessee House
Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 8:02 pm
NASHVILLE (AP) — The sponsor of an amended version of a proposal to grant equal custody to divorced parents says he believes the proposal will still affect how judges divide up the time.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Bell of Riceville was approved 7-3 in the House Children and Family Affairs Committee on Tuesday and will now be scheduled for a vote on the House floor.
Bell had pulled the measure after an amendment was added that sought to give divorcees the “maximum amount of participation possible in the life of the child,” instead of dividing the time equally.
However, he said he changed his mind at the urging of the amendment’s sponsor and other committee members.
After Tuesday’s vote, Bell acknowledged the amendment wasn’t what he wanted, but he said the version that passed is a “little step forward.”
The issue has been emotionally debated by lawmakers for nearly a decade. Supporters of the measure have said it’s needed to take discretion away from judges who are dealing with such a sensitive issue.
“At the very least, it’s sending the judges a message that we think there’s a problem here,” he said. “And would you start looking at … these situations and say what’s the best situation I can put that child in, so that child can know both parents equally.”
The sponsor of the amendment, Republican Rep. Donna Rowland of Murfreesboro, said she’s pleased the measure is advancing.
“I think this sends the message we’re looking for,” she said.
Rep. Jeanne Richardson said she voted against the measure because she’s concerned the legislation may change once it’s taken up in the Senate, even though Bell promised the committee he wouldn’t alter it.
“The advocates who want this 50/50 have pushed so hard, I don’t believe they’re going to stop,” Richardson said. “And I … believe they will try to get a Senate version that requires the 50/50.”
The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Also Tuesday, a proposal failed in the House Children and Family Affairs Committee that would have notify parents that their visitation rights are in jeopardy if they fail to visit the child for at least four months.
Read SB2881/HB2916 at: http://capitol.tn.gov
Published in The Messenger 4.14.10