Divorce or broken relationships when children are involved are never easy, especially for the child. Nasty custody battles are even worse and oftentimes one parent loses a lot of time with the child.
This legislative session lawmakers will consider a bill that supporters say could level the playing field for parents and encourage shared parenting.
For Mark Urban being an active father in his son's life hasn't been easy.
"After my son's birth it became very difficult for me to get visitation arrangement with my ex, and that's largely due to South Dakota laws," said Urban. After spending thousands of dollars and years of fighting with his son's mother, Urban finally has an agreement that allows him to play an active roll in his child's life. But for so many non-custodial parents, money and messy breakups interfere with ideal parenting.
Right now standard visitation in South Dakota for a non-custodial parent is four days per month plus a few hours each week on a weeknight. Urban is hoping this bill will change that.
Shared parenting supporters along with members of the South Dakota State Bar Association helped draft a shared parenting bill that will recognize the importance of joint physical custody.
"I think we've introduced a bill that first of all introduces the language of shared parenting into South Dakota visitation laws," said Urban.
Attorney Linda Lea Viken specializes in family law. She said she opposed last year's bill because of the fifty–fifty shared parenting it proposed in all cases. This time around she was able to offer her input
"Family lawyers don't oppose shared parenting. I have lots of clients that have shared parenting. It's just that we think it needs to fit the needs of the child," said Viken.
In the proposed bill, a judge can consider several factors pertaining to joint custody including whether a parent is keeping the child from the other parent.
"I think that's an important one along with alienation too. Because those are the most common things we hear is a parent can't get parenting time because the other parent is angry with them," said Viken.
Urban and hundreds of other shared parenting supporters in the state are rooting for the bill, and hoping for an overall outcome that gives children of broken relationships an opportunity to have two active and loving parents.
"I believe I have a real opportunity to really impact my children in a positive way and I think a lot of other fathers non-custodial parents do as well," said Urban.
In this year's proposed bill, a judge will have the ability to weigh several new factors including stability, appropriate housing, and whether the parents can show a mutual respect for each other.