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Shared Parenting Bill Heads To House

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After years of failing in the South Dakota Legislature, a bill that proposes shared parenting in divorce cases is now one step closer to heading to Governor Dennis Daugaard's desk. As the bill approaches the House for approval, lawmakers talk about how they plan to vote.

Also known as Senate Bill 74, the shared parenting bill was passed both in the Judiciary Committee and Senate Floor last week unopposed. Now, it's the House's turn to vote.

"Looking at the bill, based on testimonies I heard at the committee, I'm inclined to support it," said District 13 Republican Rep. Mark Mickelson.

The proposed bill could give children substantial time with both parents in divorce cases by setting up guidelines to help the court system decide whether the parent is fit. The current system has the non-custodial parent seeing their child four days per month, while the 'fit' parent gets more time.

"What this bill does is encourage parents to work together. Also, if shared parenting is not awarded, they do have to report why it's not," said District 11 Republican Rep. Christine Erickson.

Having a written document explaining why a parent does or doesn't get time with their child is what had many lawmakers jump on board with the bill.

"I talked to someone in the past and he was so frustrated the court had made the decision and he didn't know based what on," said District 13 Republican Sen. Phyllis Heineman.

Erickson is the co-sponsor of the bill and sponsored a similar one last year. She would like to start at equal time and see what's best for the child.

"I don't think it is something that always works between a husband and a wife who are separating, but I think it is a place to start," said Erickson.

District 15 Democratic Rep. Karen Soli said she thought the problem with the prior bill was the assumption that parents are equally fit to start with. Yet, she feels this new bill has a better compromise.

“At the moment, I’m leaning toward supporting it this time around,” said Soli.

Even though if passed, the court will have a set of set of guidelines to find out if the parent is fit. Ultimately, the judge will make the final decision on custody.

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