Senator Housley’s ‘shared parenting’ bill passes first committee

On Wednesday, legislation that creates a set of legal standards and criteria by which courts determine parenting time schedules passed the Senate Family Care and Aging Committee. The bill, authored by Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point), establishes a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting time in the event of divorce or separation.

“Research clearly shows children thrive with both parents in their lives. This bill is to protect children who have loving, responsible parents who are ready, willing, and able to share equally in the responsibility of raising them,” said Senator Housley. “The time for reform in this area of Minnesota law is long overdue.”

The legislation, Senate File 1295, requires courts to use a rebuttable presumption that each parent will be awarded 50 percent of a child’s parenting time. The bill prohibits courts from limiting parenting time based solely on a child’s age or on the parent’s gender or marital status, instead protecting the child’s best interests by maximizing the child’s time with each parent. The bill does allow courts to restrict parenting time when “clear and convincing evidence” is presented that equal parenting time is not in the child’s best interest or might endanger a child’s mental health, and judges will still have wide discretion to make decisions based on the facts of the case or special circumstances.

The bill awaits a hearing by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

“There is nothing more sacred than the parent-child relationship. We have an obligation to protect that relationship,” Senator Housley continued. “The legislature has largely ignored this issue for over two decades. Politics has divided us for too long – and it’s time to come together and pass bipartisan legislation that puts the interests of kids first.”

Senator Karin Housley, of St. Marys Point, represents the Forest Lake area and the St. Croix River Valley in the Minnesota Senate. She serves as chairwoman of the Senate Family Care and Aging Committee and is an assistant majority leader.