Women’s groups, some judges and the Tennessee Bar Association are worried that the bill would give abusive fathers an unfair upper-hand in custody matters as the bill requires clear, convincing evidence of a parent’s wrong-doings, equating this evidence to almost that of criminal law standards where guilt must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Kathy Walsh, Executive Director or the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence told USA Today, “Some parents divorce after years of the kind of controlling, domineering or even violent behavior by one party that doesn’t go away just because the relationship ends.” She worries that the bill may discourage spouses from leaving abusive relationships in order to keep the children from having to be alone with an abusive parent.
This does not even begin to factor in the logistics of parents who live in different school districts. In which parent’s area will the child attend school? How will they get there when living with the other parent?
Flipping to the other side of the coin, fathers’ rights groups are excited by the prospect of the bill. With many custody cases adopting the typical 80/20 split in favor of mothers, dads in the state are happy that the courts may now be forced to consider custody as an equal split as opposed to buying too fully into the theories of the mother/child bond.
Further, Republican representative Mike Bell, the bill’s key sponsor, hopes that it may cause parents to reconsider their decision to divorce.
The decision process continues. Currently, the Children and Family Affairs’ Family Justice Subcommittee is reviewing data from the Tennessee Bar Association and will decide based on their findings whether or not to send the bill to a second committee, and eventually the full House. As tempers flare, this emotional issue draws large crowds while the Subcommittee continues to take steps in making a decision on this controversial bill.
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