Guest Column from Matt Hale, National Parents Organization Board of Directors Member

Kentucky Republicans had to defend their control of the House for the first time in one hundred years in the face of massive teacher strikes. When Kentucky passed the teacher pension law, it also enacted the nation’s first ever shared parenting law (equal parenting time for fit parents). The teacher strikes failed to make much difference while the lower profile child custody law issue emerged as a potential national issue. House Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher said, “Kentucky’s shared parenting law is so popular and effective that it will spread to other states.”

Kentucky’s voters statewide gave the shared parenting law an A Plus. There was a direct correlation between winning percentage of contested races and lawmakers’ support of the bill. Of the contested House races, 100% of the sponsors won, 90% of those who voted yes won, 80% of those who did not vote won and 0% of those who voted no won. In fact, every sponsor of the bill running won despite 14 seats changing parties.

In Knox County, Debra Ferguson Payne a retired educator ran against incumbent Jim Stewart III. She hoped to ride the energy from the massive teacher strikes against Republican lawmakers to victory. However, the teacher push got a failing grade per the Louisville Courier Journal. Stewart, who voted for shared parenting law, cruised to victory 10,257 to 2,638.

Another contest compared the strength of shared parenting versus the pension bill. There was only one shared parenting opponent, Linda Belcher, on the ballot. She was crushed by 20 points after her vote against the joint custody law even though she easily won her last election by 37 points. Worse yet, Belcher was the only incumbent educator to lose in the year of unprecedented teacher energy. This case shows again that the shared parenting law proved more important to voters than the pension bill.

The Senate results are very telling also. Dorsey Ridley was the only Senate incumbent to lose. He voted for the joint custody bill. Ridley’s problem was that it was his opponent Robbie Mill’s bill. Mills sponsored the shared parenting bill and even invited joint custody supporters to speak at his rallies. Ridley massively outraised Mills $168,970 to $61,970 as of sept 17. However, Dorsey Ridley simply got “out shared parented” by Robby Mills.

Another Democrat, Robin Webb, had a very different history with shared parenting legislation. She met with shared parenting advocates repeatedly and even appeared on the front page of her local paper (which officially endorsed the shared parenting law) supporting joint custody a few weeks before the election. Webb was the only Democrat to win a contested Senate election this year.

Every race is different and affected by many factors. However, the polls and election results clearly show the importance of a candidate’s support of joint custody. In the future, voters will also make it easier for judges who support shared parenting to win. Quite simply, judges with a good reputation for giving parents equal parenting time will find it easier to win. Judges who are prone to accept false abuse accusations or award excessive and unfair child support judgments will be more likely to lose.

Matt Hale led the effort to get the Shared Parenting law passed.

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