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Letters to the Editor

MO Lawyers Media Staff//May 12, 1997//

Letters to the Editor

MO Lawyers Media Staff//May 12, 1997//

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Weiss Letter About Senate Bill 51 Misleads ‘Bar, Bench And Public’

To the Editor:

The May 5 issue of Missouri Lawyers Weekly contained a letter to the editor from Missouri Bar president Charles A. Weiss, which misleads the bar, the bench and the public regarding Senate Substitute #3 for Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 51.

Senate Bill 51 does many things, but it does NOT mandate joint physical and joint legal custody, nor does it place the interest of the parent above the best interests of the children.

Under current case law, joint physical and joint legal custody is in fact the “preferred” custodial arrangement (see Burkhart v. Burkhart, 876 S.W.2d 675; Luther v. Vogel, 863 S.W.2d 902; and In re Marriage of Barnes, 855 S.W.2d 451). Senate Bill 51 codifies current case law and states that “physical and legal custody shall be awarded in the best interests of the child,” and that joint physical and joint legal custody is the preferred custodial arrangement.

The burden of proof that joint physical and joint legal is not in the best interests of the child is placed upon the parent opposing an award of joint physical and joint legal custody. Why shouldn’t a child have the right to a mom and dad that are presumptively equal in the eyes of the law?

I believe the matrimonial bar is primarily concerned that Senate Bill 51 will ultimately reduce divorce antagonism and contentiousness and therefore reduce attorney’s fees. In order to obscure their true selfish motivation for opposing Senate bill 51, the matrimonial bar created a fictitious smoke screen and declared that Senate Bill 51 “will hurt children.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Two Simple Themes

Senate Bill 51 has two simple, comprehensive themes. First, a child’s ultimate well-being fundamentally hinges upon frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents as well as sufficient financial resources. Second, custody and visitation orders should be enforced by the courts and law-enforcement officials as vigorously and thoroughly as child support orders.

Do not be misled or misinformed by special interest groups that have a financial stake in maintaining the status quo. I ask that all interested parties take the time to read Senate Bill 51 and draw their own conclusions.


Bill McKenna

Missouri Senate

President Pro Tem

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