By Bob Katzen

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on legislation that supporters say would change Massachusetts law so that that both parents who are going through a divorce have every right to continue to parent their children even after legal separation from their spouse. The measure replaces the word ‘visitation’ in state’s custody laws with ‘parenting time.’

“The concept is simple—divorce is stressful on the children and no parent should be relegated to the status of a visitor,” said sponsor Rep. Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk). “As we know, words have a powerful impact and it is critical that neither parent’s role is diminished by inferring that one is a parent and care giver and the other is just casually stopping by from time to time as a visitor. Most judges already make the order for parenting time as opposed to visitation so the law should reflect that.”

Dooley continued, “This ensures that all children are given the access to their parents that they deserve—regardless of marital decisions that are out of their hands—as well as clarifies the important responsibility that Massachusetts courts have to give all parents the chance to truly parent their children and build positive, lasting relationships. This term [‘visitation’] also gets frequently weaponized by the parent with primary custody to lessen the other parent’s role as a second-class participant,” said Dooley. “This is simply wrong and minimizes the importance of the parent-child bond.”

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