In the past, various bills calling for "shared parenting" (a legal presumption for joint custody) have been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature. They have all failed. It is a contentious issue and passions run high on both sides of the debate. A recent opinion piece by the Boston Globe, however, seems to highlight a shift on this issue. Politicians and supporters of the shared parenting concept are looking at the state's recently passed Alimony Reform Act as a model for the type of process and reform that could have a huge impact on the divorce landscape in MA.
Like the custody issue, alimony reform seemed too challenging to tackle. However, a task force was established, and for over a year various and opposing voices on the issue were heard and considered. The process resulted the in passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011.
In my humble opinion, joint custody in all cases (required by law) would not be a good idea. It would not allow our Family Court Judges to exercise discretion in their search for the best interest of the children involved in divorce proceedings in MA. However, at a minimum, the task force could begin the process of examining how our Family Courts function on custody determinations and examine the issue of alleged bias against fathers. It's possible, as the Globe and others have suggested, that small changes could make a huge difference in the fairness of the process while still putting the interest of children first.
For example, opponents of the current system suggest that, instead of a 20 minute, non-evidentiary temporary order hearing to determine something as important as temporary custody arrangements, why not have a full hearing, with evidence presented, to help judges come to a more reasoned and informed decision? It's an interesting and important subject, and I encourage attorneys and parents to chime in with their opinions.