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Parenting plans voluntary to required

Published (2/11/2011)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Parenting plans help divorcing parents define how they are going to raise children in separate households and continue the parenting relationship.

It’s voluntary now in Minnesota, but laying out the logistics of the parenting role would be required under HF292, sponsored by Rep. Diane Anderson (R-Eagan).

“The goal is to encourage the involvement of both parents in the child’s life. … We want them to be working out the issues, rather than going through a long litigation process,” she told the House Civil Law Committee Feb. 7. As amended, the bill was approved and sent to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.

“Folks do divorce each other, but folks don’t divorce their children,” and a well-defined parenting plan allows for both parents to maintain that important role, said Andy Dawkins, a former House member who practices family law.

An advocate for the plan while serving in the Legislature, he said the parenting plan does not address legal or physical custody of the child. Under the bill, parents could choose to complete a parenting plan or leave it up to the court.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) questioned if those unable to afford a good attorney may not end up with the best plan, and is concerned that, depending upon available services, some residents may not end up with “quality.”

Melinda Hugdahl, Legal Services Advocacy Project staff attorney, said the bill’s goal is admirable, but her concern “lies with the folks who don’t agree or don’t have resources to develop a parenting plan and don’t understand the ramifications.” She is working with Anderson to address these issues before the bill receives its next hearing.

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