Texas fathers who are divorced often face an uphill battle for equal custody of their children.
Proponents had hoped to change Texas law to make it easier, but a bill that would do so has stalled over time.
Derek Berry, father of three, was unwilling to accept the state ownership arrangement of a 75/25 custody split during his divorce, which drastically cut the time spent with his children. So he defended himself in court.
“Ten years and five lawyers, but it ended up being a 45/55 split and it remains difficult to this day,” he said.
A bill running through the state capital at this session aims to change the standard ownership rules to a 50/50 split between mom and dad.
It has bipartisan support but appears to be stalling on the Youth Justice and Family Affairs Committee chaired by Dallas County’s Victoria Neave Representative. And time is running out as the legislature ends at the end of the month.
SarahJae Johnston of The Fathers’ Rights Movement says her family benefited from a 50/50 split. The organization gathered supporters in Austin last month.
“Studies and data over the past decade have shown that the more time children spend with both parents, the better they do,” said Johnston.
Proponents of common parenting laws say a primary goal should be to remove conflict from divorce, but they say that this also limits big business and that this could be part of the raid.
“You cut the costs of litigation. You affect the people who pay the lobbyists to get there and fight those bills,” Johnston said.
A consistent argument of the opponents is that a 50/50 separation is too much back and forth for the child. At least one committee member expressed concern at a hearing in April.
Berry says while it looks like fathers are wrongly attacked, he hears from mothers too. He says his organization is helping all parents who want to see their children navigate the system better and hopes that one day the custody talk will start at 50/50.
“Our children both deserve loving parents,” he said. “And that’s exactly what it is.”