The Colorado legislature is looking to change how child custody rights are decided, but not everyone is supportive of the new measure.
On the one hand, Colorado Senate Bill 15-129 — the 50/50 parenting bill — would recognize parental rights as fundamental rights, and it would allow parents to have equal chance for custody in a divorce.
Supporters say that the bill will move divorcing couples and their children into the 21st century. Although just 63% of children are raised by both biological parents, this bill would help children stay in contact with both parents even after a divorce.
Yet this situation could be dangerous, according to some activists, because it would force children to spend more time with an abusive parent.
Annette Story, a parent and former spouse of an abuser, said that the bill could do more harm than good for many families. “This would force these children to spend more time with a possible abuser,” she explained.
Story’s son wrote a letter to the state’s lawmakers explaining his opposition to the proposed law.
“My father abused me every time he had visitation with me,” he wrote. “I could have been dead. I could have been injured. I believe the most likely scenario is that I would have committed suicide to escape the horrible abuse that I suffered.”
Abuse is just one of many reasons why one spouse would go about hiring a divorce attorney in the first place — because they themselves faced some form of abuse or their children did.
Some situations can even place children in the hands of police.
Just last week in Aurora, two people thought to be the parents of a two-year-old girl abandoned her in a local restaurant.
The child was spotted wandering alone without shoes or socks around 2 p.m. at Los Toritos Restaurant. Police were notified and the girl was taken into the custody of the Adams County Department of Social Services.
The girl’s parents were found later that day and are currently under investigation. While this represents an isolated incident, opponents of the 50/50 Parenting Bill could lead to situations like these where unfit parents could endanger their children.
Despite bipartisan support in the Colorado House and Senate, groups like the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) has also opposed the bill.
“The problem with the bill passing is that it’s going to muddy the waters,” said CCADV spokeswoman Amy Pohl. “It’s going to make it confusing for court professionals and attorneys to understand the best interest of the child standard.”