People who feel they have been treated unfairly by Maine’s family court system Tuesday urged the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee to change how judges decide custody issues.
Two bills — LD 346 and LD 642 — would require judges to consider the value of having both parents involved in the lives of their children following a divorce. That would be an addition to the current legal standard of making decisions based on what is in the “best interest of the child.”
John Simpson, a Cumberland Foreside attorney and divorced father of two, urged the committee to recommend to the Legislature that the bills be enacted. He told the committee that his wife filed for divorce in 2013 and, initially, the couple was able to equally share the residential care of their children, now 5 and 3.
“Unfortunately, we could not agree on a permanent parenting schedule,” Simpson said. “I thought continuing with our shared schedule would be best for the children, but my wife wanted the children to live primarily with her.”
His voice breaking with emotion, Simpson told the committee that “despite clear proof that shared primary residential care was working very well for our children, the court accepted the guardian ad litem’s 1950s vintage opinion that young children should primarily reside with their mother. My children now spend twice as much time with their mom than their dad for no rational reason.”
Simpson recommended that judges who want to know what is in the best interest of the children of divorcing parents should ask the children.
About half a dozen other divorced parents echoed Simpson’s concerns and his emotional distress over the final custody decrees in their cases. Most complained about how the guardians ad litem assigned to their cases “misrepresented” the facts of their cases to judges.