WHEREAS, Senate Bill 175, Printer's No. 169 proposes to amend Title 23 to redefine "Shared Custody", and to make certain presumptions, specifically in Section 5303, providing that an Order for Joint Custody shall be awarded, unless the Court finds that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child, and that there shall be a rebuttable presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child/children;
WHEREAS, increasing numbers of children in Philadelphia have been raised in one parent families, and by third parties;
WHEREAS, increasing numbers of litigants in urban areas are appearing pro se in Family Court, and such litigants could well be harmed by this amendment;
WHEREAS, this amendment does not take into account long family separations where no Order for custody has been entered, or situations with absent parents, or with parents with little or no contact with the child, where there is no custody Order;
WHEREAS, the proposed Bill would be problematic in domestic violence situations;
WHEREAS, Section 5304.1 of the Bill provides that this does not affect child support, but, in fact, this would conflict with the new Support Guidelines, which call for a downward modification after 40% of the custodial time is allocated to the non-custodial parent;
WHEREAS, case law supports the view requiring individual assessments in custody litigation;
WHEREAS, the Family Law Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association has consistently been opposed to presumptions in custody cases and takes the position that presumptions about parenting often become a "rubber stamp" and are not in the best interest of the child, the determination of which requires individual assessment on a case by case basis.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association opposes the passage of Senate Bill 175 as presently written or other comparable legislation;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor, staff and Legislative Liaison Committee shall use their best efforts to communicate this position to lawmakers and to effectuate this resolution.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: May 27, 1999