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Shared Parenting Rights

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It's an intricate issue for policy makers, lawyers, parents and the family court system.

When it comes to separated or divorced parents, shared custody is becoming more common worldwide.

Sen. Russ Karpisek proposed LB 212 and Sen. Galen Hadley proposed LB 22 to promote shared and equal parenting rights.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, a group of shared parenting advocates, lawyers, and medical experts gathered in Lincoln to show their support for LB212 and LB22 prior to the public hearing in the legislature's Judiciary Committee. Among those supporters was Bruce Vesper, father of an 18-month-old boy.

Vesper said, "He is just a joy to have; the only time I hate it is when I have to actually take him back and give him back to mom. I can't be selfish but I'd like to keep him longer."

The Fremont man has been battling for equal parenting rights for nearly two years, he only has about 10 percent custody and sees his son for a few hours once a week, and spends every other weekend with him. Vesper says the court cases began even before the birth of Alexander.

"She's a good mom but she doesn't want to communicate with me about anything to do with our son," Vesper said about his ex.

Family law attorney Chris Johnson of Hastings is standing with parents like Bruce.

Johnson said, "Most of the time the conflict that arises is over the kids and custody and 'are we going to share or will we have a winner or a loser?' I think these two bills will put an end to it and reduce the amount of conflict."

Johnson added, "Most of my cases include two good parents, they just don't like each other anymore. That's fine. But that doesn't mean they're a bad parent. They may be a bad spouse."

He said although he mostly represents men, the proposed LB 22 and LB 212 bills are not about mothers or fathers rights.

At its hearing, officials with 'Voices for Children in Nebraska' provided a neutral testimony; they said though they agree with actions to increase a positive relationship with both parents, the group is concerned the bill may have unintended consequences.

Still lawmakers say the proposed changes won't tell the courts what to do. Sen. Galen Hadley said, "It just gives the courts options to look at."

Lawmakers said it would create an equal playing field and give both parents -- equal parenting rights, unless there is a reason not to give them both that right.

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