A Call to Action to Support SSB 3154
Note: SSB 3154 is Now SF 2374
Throughout history, the United States has not been exempt from inequality. In fact, it has condoned bias and prejudice more than we would prefer to admit. Some of us have experienced this first hand due to our race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, and/or disabilities.
We have been judged for elements that comprise our being which, in most instances, are beyond our control. Others have only read about these inequalities and subsequent unjust treatment though it affects them nonetheless.
I am a thirty-one-year-old, white, heterosexual, Christian, American man without any known disabilities. It would be asinine to say that I only feel for those whose attributes parallel those of my own.
When I read of slavery and subsequent racial prejudice against African Americans, I hurt for those individuals.
When I watch homosexuals being degraded and denied marriage rights due to their sexuality, I hurt for those individuals.
When I experience women being treated differently in the workplace than men, I hurt for those individuals.
When I see good people judged for their religion or lack thereof, I hurt for those individuals.
When I hear people make disparaging remarks about the disabled, I hurt for those individuals.
I do not only hurt for the individuals who are wrongfully judged, I hurt for those who are spreading hatred, as often they know not what they do.
Forgiveness and love will always overcome.
We are on the brink of another monumental time in United States history, most recently in Iowa. For decades, good men and women alike have fallen victim to the Iowa custody code. The code not only allows for prolonged animosity, it condones it.
The equation has been figured out by attorneys, and they use and abuse this flawed legislation. Separation and divorce are emotionally charged actions by themselves. Add a child or children into the mix, and the emotions are exponentially heightened.
Why Support SSB 3154 (Now SF 2374)?
Most people do not want to lose their children. In most instances, parents are accustomed to picking our children up from daycare or coming home and seeing them every weekday after a long day at work. That feeling of children running into our arms makes everything we faced throughout the day prior negligible.
They are accustomed to spending weekends enjoying activities that otherwise could not be done during the weekdays. The same applies to children, and with separation and divorce their entire world changes in just a moment’s time.
The only thing that parents can do to restore stability at that time is to do what is truly in the best interest of our children.
Why then, we may ask, would Iowa judges ever want to keep children from one of the parents, if that parent is a loving, willing, and able parent?
The answer is simple: they can. Judicial overreach is rampant, and bias dictates an extraordinary number of custody cases. Many individuals are “guilty” before they speak, based largely on factors beyond their control.
We are beginning to see these outdated and unjust laws be brought up-to-date to reflect today’s society. Recently, SSB 3154 was proposed by Iowa State Senator and Judiciary Chairman Brad Zaun.
SSB 3154 (Now SF 2374) is a proposed bill that would amend the current Iowa custody code to a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting. For those who are unaware or uninformed, this would presume that when joint legal custody is awarded to both parents and deemed to be in the best interest of the children, joint physical custody would also be presumed to be in the best interest of the children.
Inevitably, some will say that this could allow an unsuitable parent to have the same amount of time with the children as a suitable parent. This is where the rebuttal is emphasized. Even those, including myself, who have prayed for the day of a presumption of shared parenting being legally recognized as in the best interest of children would never support or condone an unfit parent to be awarded the same timeshare as a fit parent.
This is not a punishment to that parent. It is for the safety of the children. However, today’s Iowa custody court is more concerned with the history of the parents than the history of the parents with their children.
The proverbial hidden treasure that hypothetically cracks the code of custodial rights in Iowa has long been deciphered. It is quite simple: deny that joint physical care is in the best interest of the children, disparage and rebuke the other parent who was once your closest ally and best friend, diminish his or her parental capabilities to the court, claim domestic abuse even if it was never documented, and hope the court believes you over the other.
All the current code requires is a preponderance of evidence; not clear and convincing evidence. We must all take a step back and realize how wrong this is, not only for the parents but especially for the children.
Iowa custody code as currently stated not only allows but condones a reality show of sorts wherein two parents tie up the court system, often nonsensically and falsely speaking more on the topic of one another than on their individual relationship with the children.
The question should not be if the parents have always been civil with one another. The question should not be if the parents always agree on everything.
The question should not be if the parents have had a turbulent past. It does not take a juris doctorate to know that conflict between the parents exists; otherwise, they likely would not be separating. This is one of many asinine loopholes in the current Iowa custody code.
The weight of the relationship between the parents weighs more heavily than the relationship of the children with each individual parent.
If the parents have a poor relationship, as is predominately the case in separation or divorce, I ask you this: should that dictate the custodial arrangement?
If both parents are loving, willing, and able to care for the children, and are in no way a detriment to the development of the children, should one be adjudicated to see less of their children?
Should the children be forced to see less of one of their parents whom they love?
Other states have been making great strides to consider the true best interests of the children. When the custodial parent, however, intentionally chooses to relocate with opposition from the non-custodial parent, this is a different scenario.
Apart from a minority of instances when this action is absolutely necessitated, this strategy has been widely recognized as merely a power play, leveraging the children as pawns and using geographic proximity in an attempt to alienate the relationship of the noncustodial parent and children. Is this truly in the best interest of the children?
New Jersey recently visited that very matter. In the 2017 Supreme Court of New Jersey in the case of Bisbing vs. Bisbing, a plethora of social studies were considered and diligently reviewed.
Consequently, the court admitted to prior notions being outdated and noted a legitimate need to revisit the legislation. The result was an amendment of this code, one that was updated to reflect social studies, thwart further manipulative attempts to punish the noncustodial parent, and all of this was accomplished while considering the true best interest of the children.
For reference and more in-depth explanation of this case, please visit the following website: https://www.rgfamilylaw.com/blog/2017/august/new-rule-for-nj-child-relocation-for-custodial-p/.
Regarding our neighbors to the east, Illinois, numerous bills proposing amendments for shared care being in the true best interest of the children have been sponsored by Illinois House Representatives, with an astonishingly large support from Democrats.
For reference and more in-depth information, please visit the following website: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?GAID=14&GA=100&DocNum=4113&DocTypeID=HB&SessionID=91&LegID=108029&SpecSess=&Session=#actions.
It is understandable that partisan values will play a role in decisions. However, when it comes to the true best interests of children, party affiliation truly should be set aside. I am neither Republican nor Democrat, so I can state without bias that historically Democrats in Iowa have held the majority of opposition to shared care proposals.
To quote a man by the name of Greg Conrad: “Ideally if this bill passes it would not be red or blue. It would be purple as this will improve chances of success here as well as in other states where shared parenting bills are being considered.”
We all make mistakes. After all, we are human. We say and do things that we often regret later. However, we acknowledge that despite our errors, we can still be a good person.
A failed romantic relationship does not dictate our ability to be a parent, just as our race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, and/or disabilities do not dictate our ability to be a good person.
I urge you if you or anyone you know has been affected by the current Iowa custody code, or if you disagree with the inequality and bias that exists within it, please stand now.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not wait to right the wrongs of racial inequality.
Susan B. Anthony did not wait to right the wrongs of gender inequality.
We cannot wait either, as the time is now. For the first time in Iowa history, we are witnessing a bill proposing the rebuttable presumption of shared parenting being in the true best interest of children before the Iowa State Senate for a vote. SSB 3154 (Now SF 2374) passed unanimously in Iowa State Senate subcommittee and passed Iowa State Judiciary committee with a convincing majority.
This is a call to action for everyone who believes that these wrongs need to be righted once and for all, not only for those parents and children who have been affected thus far but also for those who may be affected going forward if this code is not amended.
It is impossible for a child to fully understand why they are unable to see a loving parent as often as their other loving parent. Most would agree that this is a heartbreaking notion, one that no child should ever have to endure.
Please Support SSB 3154 (Now SF 2374)
I ask you to write, call, and/or meet with our Iowa State Senators and House Representatives. Respectfully and politely ask them for their support in passing SSB 3154 (Now SF 2374).
Disagreements are inevitable. Always be courteous and gracious, though stand your ground for what you believe in. Do not be discouraged or angered.
Just as the inequalities of the past now seem unfathomable in today’s society, with a collective voice and strength in numbers, the inequality of custodial care can be yet another unfathomable and unfortunate memory in history.
This article is a guest submission by Dr. Reese R. Petersen of Clinton, Iowa [DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in guest posts, are the personal opinions of the author. They may or may not reflect the opinions of Families United Action Network (FUAN) or its individual members. Note that submissions are edited for clarity if needed.
Dr. Reese R. Petersen is a chiropractor and musculoskeletal therapist in Clinton, IA. When you meet him, just call him by his preferred name of Reese.
He has two sons, Lincoln and Wyatt. Reese currently has visitation rights as a noncustodial parent. Of course, this was not by his choice, but it is not uncommon
with current Iowa custody code.
At the time of separation, Reese and the mother of his children had an amicable agreement of joint legal custody and shared care. They waited months for the opportunity to have their parenting plan approved. Unfortunately, the negative influence of family, friends, and attorneys during this time yielded a different outcome and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Shared care was no longer accepted. Two days were spent in court being forced to disparage the other parent due to the fear of losing time with the children. Both parties admitted that the other was not a detriment to children and that both were loving/willing/able.
Loopholes were wrongfully utilized by the opposing attorney who has a reputation for being unethical for monetary gain. Reese has become an advocate for shared parenting as a result of his experience.
Despite being a relatively busy man, Reese takes time to study Biblical theology, eschatology, and philosophy. In fact, he will be attending seminary school in the Spring. Reese is also a singer/songwriter for over half of his life.
No matter how busy his schedule may be, he always clears it when he has the opportunity to be with his children. Being self-employed has been a blessing to allow him to take off days to spend with them.
As Reese moves on with his life, he has found a new romantic interest. He says his children absolutely love and adore his girlfriend. He is thankful for her patience, understanding, and genuine care. He enjoys writing, and has a burning passion for “righting the wrongs of the world.”
Reese knows he cannot change everything, so he focuses much of his energy on those things which he believes he can help to influence.
To that end, Reese supports SSB3154. He believes this bill can and will improve the lives of a multitude of men, women, and children… not only now, but for generations to come.