South Dakota Legislature to push for joint physical custody

Published: Feb. 13, 2020 at 4:51 PM MST
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This bill amendment presumes that a child should live with each parent 50% of the time,

in other words, the law starts with favoring a 50-50 joint custody.

Lori Malone at Black Hills Mediation in Law says,

she supports this amendment, because she believes it's fair to presume both parents are fit to have shared custody.

Under current laws, each parent is evaluated first before the custody is granted. But the proposed bill would consider shared custody first -- before factoring in if a parent is a sex offender or is mentally or physically unfit.

Attorney Kylie Riggins says, in the worst case scenario, if somebody is a victim of domestic violence, and tries to leave with their children -- the perpetrator can use the presumed joint custody as a bargaining chip. Riggins also says, shared physical custody can work well for some families, but each family is different; custody should be granted on a case by case basis.

"Instead of starting with the framework of figuring out what this unique child and the unique family need, we are starting with a framework of one size fits all, and you have a presumption to overcome, in order to get off that one size fits all," explains Riggins, who says she believes that the focus should be on what is in children's best interest.

Riggins' colleagues were in Pierre to provide their testimony on this bill, and there will be another hearing next week.