Shared custody bill passes House after debate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill approved by the House of Delegates Monday would make 50-50 custody of children in divorce cases public policy in West Virginia.

The bill, HB 2363, says only a preponderance of the evidence of incompetence, neglect or abuse as defined in state code would change shared parenting. The determination would come in what’s described as a “full adversarial judicial hearing.”

Danielle Walker

Following a lengthy debate, House members passed the bill 68-31 and sent it to the Senate.

Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, said she’s heard from her constituents who are concerned about the provisions of the bill.

“I listened to mommas and a I listened to daddys and I listened to the discrimination and the prejudice that this was a mad dad’s bill,” Walker said.

Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, argued in favor of the bill. He said 50-50 custody gives children the “best chance possible” to get through a difficult situation.

Geoff Foster

Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said it would be great if everyone could have shared custody but that’s often not possible. Fleischauer said she’s concerned the provision would make gut-wrenching divorce even more difficult because of the adversarial hearing.

“You have to prove that your child is endangered. Do you know what that’s going to do with divorce? You have to prove that the parent of your baby is a monster,” Fleischauer said.

Foster said the state of Kentucky approved a similar bill in 2017 and has reported better statistics in domestic situations. Foster said most children want time with both parents.

Barbara Fleischauer

“When surveyed, children who went through this situation, as in they were from a divorced home, 70% of them said they preferred 50-50 custody,” Foster said.

Fleischauer said the bill allows revenge to become part of family law.

“You think divorces are bad now? If you have to prove endangerment just think how rotten everyone’s lives are going to be,” she said.

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