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West Virginia may join Kentucky as a shared parenting state

CHARLESTON — House Bill 2363, the Best Interests of the Child Protection Act of 2021, was sent to the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 24 and the full House with bipartisan support, 68-31.

HB 2363 uses similar wording to Kentucky’s shared parenting law passed in 2018. Polling showed the Kentucky law was supported by about six people to every one who opposed it. The law’s popularity was further clarified when Kentucky declared the day it was signed it law, April 26, as Shared Parenting Day.

“We closely modeled House Bill 2363 after Kentucky’s shared parenting law and even used the same team, National Parents Organization, to lead the effort for its passage,” Delegate Geoff Foster, R- Putnam, a primary sponsor, said. “Kentucky’s law has proven popular and even reduced domestic violence.”

The West Virginia bill, like the Kentucky law, use shared parenting, equal time with both parents, as a starting point. Then, a list of factors evaluating parents’ fitness such as domestic violence and the wishes of the child, is considered.

The bill includes the “Friendly Parent Factor” that considers “the likelihood a party will allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent.” This factor was originally introduced into law in Arizona and then also added by Kentucky in 2018.

“Children can start with equal custody when families end but the Friendly Parent Factor helps ensure it will continue,” Cam Huffman, who volunteers as the National Parents Organization West Virginia legislative liaison, said.

Studies show children benefit from equal time parenting when both parents are fit, said Ryan Schroeder, dean of Georgia Southern’s College of Behavioral and Social Science, who serves on the National Parents Organization Advisory Council.

“Children respond well to authoritative parenting from healthy parents,” Schroeder said. “It’s difficult for a caregiver to provide that type of childcare when his or her parenting time is insufficient.”

West Virginia state lawmakers responded by aligning state laws with the research, Jeb Pinkerton, recently appointed National Parents Organization’s Outreach Director. He also also heads West Virginians for Shared Parenting.

“This represents a commonsense approach that is becoming more common nationwide. Our lawmakers and primary sponsor Geoff Foster should be commended,” Pinkerton said.

The West Virginia bill proposes only fit parents should receive shared parenting.

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