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Posted: Feb 2 2015 9:07AM
BIPARTISAN GROUP OF LEGISLATORS ANNOUNCE FAMILY LAW REFORM PROPOSALS
ST. PAUL – A bipartisan group of House members unveiled a package of family law reform proposals for consideration for the 2015 Legislative Session on Thursday.
Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester), Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights) announced three major areas of reform as it relates to family law. Joining the legislators in support of these proposals include family law attorney Jennifer Sommerfeld, family law attorney Michael Dittberner, Minnesota Legal Aid staff attorney Melinda Hugdahl, and Center for Parental Responsibility executive director Molly Olson.
Overview of the Family Law Reform Proposals for 2015
1. Revisions to the Best Interests of the Child Factors.
• Focuses the analysis of a child’s best interests on the specific needs of each child, not on a comparison between parents.
• Incorporates the concepts from the existing best interest factors into revised factors that consider the impact on the child of the child’s past, current, and proposed future parenting arrangements.
• Retains all current protections for victims of domestic violence, including the presumption against joint legal and physical custody in cases where domestic abuse has occurred between the parties.
• Encourages courts to consider the impact domestic violence between the parents and other household members has had and will continue to have on the child.
2. Changes to Child Support Statutes
• Removes the current child support percentage of parenting time tiers on which the parenting expense adjustment is based by providing parents with a parenting expense adjustment with each successive night of parenting time.
• Further eliminates the link between custody labels and child support by permitting sole physical custodians to be child support obligors.
• Changes one method of determining potential income to reflect current minimum hourly wages and employment trends.
• Encourages parties, attorneys, and courts to ensure adequate financial resources in each of the child’s two homes.
• Creates a new statute governing how and when the Department of Human Services may report to credit bureaus a support obligor as a party in default for parties who are behind on child support payments.
3. Improves and Clarifies Family Law Statutes.
• Better educates unmarried fathers by adding notice on the Recognition of Parentage form that specifies not only what the form does, but also what it does not accomplish for the legally recognized parent.
• Requires courts to enforce penalties when a parent repeatedly, intentionally, and unreasonably denies the other parent court ordered parenting time.
• Sets guidelines for courts to determine or modify the allocation of child income tax dependency exemptions between parents.
• Ensures courts recognize the right of parties to enter into private agreements.
• Removes family court judgments from application of the enhanced 10-percent interest rate on judgments in excess of $50,000.
• Clarifies that the 25 percent parenting time presumption is a minimum, not the maximum presumptive standard.
“What’s significant about this package of proposals is that it reflects a consensus among stakeholders who, just a few short years ago, were on opposite sides of family law issues,” said Scott. “We worked collaboratively to find agreement among family law attorneys, alternative dispute resolution officials, psychologists, as well as parent and father advocate groups.”
These proposals have been put into bill form and await committee action by Minnesota House of Representatives.
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