“Representative David Bickford is the sponsor of the bill. The first words out of his mouth after the subcommittee meeting was formally adjourned were ‘This is a win for us’…
“Anne Grassie is the subcommittee chair. She”s strongly in favor of the court ruling based on evidence. The last words out of her mouth to me prior to leaving the room were a decisive ‘This bill will pass… in some form.'”
Recently New Hampshire State Representative David Bickford, a longtime fighter for shared parenting and fairness for fathers, asked our supporters to send emails in support of HB139, New Hampshire’s Comparable Parenting bill. New Hampshire’s legislature works on a two-year cycle, and he feared that the bill would die in a subcommittee of the House Children and Family Law Committee on March 12 and be lost for two years.
Many Fathers & Families supporters wrote and called the Committee in support of the bill, and their action helped save the bill from an early death. Below Richard Smaglick, a New Hampshire activist who worked hard in support of the bill provides an update. He writes:
The subcommittee voted to retain the bill for further study, which was a favorable result for us. This outcome keeps the bill alive. During the subcommittee meeting, two of the representatives made comments directly referring to the emails they had received about the legislation.
One stated that she understood public concern about the capricious decisions that Guardian ad Litems sometimes make in custody cases and that a more rigorous and better documented decision process was necessary. Another stated that she believed the concept of “a rebuttable presumption’ of comparable parenting should be given further consideration.
The subcommittee gave a legislative intern the opportunity to speak at length about her personal experience, in which her parents shared equally in parenting time following their divorce. Many of the intern”s comments about her parents’ commitment and parenting following the divorce were positive. In general, she seemed to be pleased with the outcome, given the adverse circumstances introduced by divorce.
She also stated that when she went to college and moved into her dorm room, she was pleased to have all her belongings in the same place. Some members of the subcommittee wanted to make an issue of the efforts her parents made to keep the parenting time equally divided. They asked the intern whether this was difficult for her and then pushed the idea that a hard line requirement for 50/50 division of parenting time was unreasonably restrictive and stressful.
The subcommittee then voted to retain the bill. Representative David Bickford is the sponsor of the bill. The first words out of his mouth after the subcommittee meeting was formally adjourned were “This is a win for us.’
Two other bills promoting father involvement were killed in subcommittee last week, one involving modification of parenting plans that were arrived at prior to an extensive overhaul of New Hampshire family law, and one about the enforcement of parenting plans, which would have imposed significant consequences on parents who willfully withhold children from the other parent during that parent”s parenting time. Given the current political climate in Concord, we”re very happy that the comparable legislation is still alive.
HB139 does not require parents to share equally in parenting time. The parents are given the opportunity to develop a parenting plan involving any division of parenting time they agree on. If one of them asks for comparable parenting time, it must be considered, and the court must state its reasons for denying it if it finds that it”s not in the best interest of the children. The same applies if the court denies any other allocation of parenting time that the parents agree on.
I had a chance to speak to the subcommittee informally after the meeting adjourned. I provided some of the conclusions of the social science research on how shared parenting benefits children. I pointed out how children benefit when their parents live between 2 and 20 miles of one another following divorce.
I also pointed out that no matter how parenting time is allocated, there will be some tension associated with maintaining that allocation. I tried to make the point that the difficulties encountered in maintaining an 80/20 allocation of parenting time are no different than those associated with a 50/50 allocation.
Anne Grassie is the subcommittee chair. She”s strongly in favor of the court ruling based on evidence. The last words out of her mouth to me prior to leaving the room were a decisive “This bill will pass…in some form.’
The bill will be heard again in the Fall.
Following the subcommittee meeting, Smaglick appeared on the local cable program Capital Access, hosted by Lydia Harman, who strongly supports HB 139. To watch, click here.
Special thanks to Smaglick, Bickford, and Mike Geanoulis, a member of New Hampshire”s Commission on the Status of Men for their efforts to support HB139. Thanks also to David L. Levy of the Children’s Rights Council, Mike McCormick of the American Coalition for Fathers & Children, Scott Garman of the Men”s Activism News Network, and Marc Angelucci, Esq. for their advice.