Michigan Rep. Jim Runestad proposes equal child custody for parents

Rep. Jim Runestad introduces House Bill 4691 for equal parenting

CANTON, Mich. – One of the most challenging parts of settling a divorce can be child custody, and a Michigan lawmaker is proposing a plan that could change how much time children spend with their parents.

Kevin Kossel loves his daughter, but he said his attempt to spend time with her has been a battle involving the girl's mother and the court.

"I've been working closely to try to come to an agreement with her mother," Kossel said. "We just had a child together. When she was about 1 we broke up and the battle began."

Kossel's daughter, Lydia, is now 3 years old, but Kossel spent the past two years -- not to mention thousands of dollars -- trying to get equal parenting time with her.

"It's a battle," Kossel said. "It's very mentally consuming to fight for your child to prove your worth as a father."

Kossel is one of dozens of people who packed a town hall meeting in Canton to discuss a bill that would make parenting time equal for divorced or separated couples.

"It's a flawed system," Rep. Jim Runestad said. "It's a system that's built on an adversary nature to pit one parent against the other."

Runestad, of White Lake, has introduced House Bill 4691. He's holding town halls to explain why it's time to even the parenting field.

"When they're together raising those children, then yes, the presumptive is saying they will get a substantial, equal amount of time unless there's things like domestic violence, distance is too far or they come to an agreement," Runestad said.

Attorneys who practice family law believe the bill reaches too far, is too vague and, most importantly, isn't necessary.

"We already have a system that takes into account how much time a child spends with each parent," family law attorney Diana Raimi said. "What (Runestad) is bringing to the table is a cookie cutter approach to decide custody and parenting time, and no two families are alike."

But for Kossel, who fought hard to see Lydia, he believe the bill would help fathers like never before.

"It gives fathers like me an even playing field," Kossel said. "I didn't have an even playing field when my daughter's mother and I broke up."

Opponents argue mandates simply don't work in family court, and that no two families are alike. Runestad admits he's willing to iron out any issues.

Click here to view House Bill 4691 on the government website.