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Utah Legislature: House OKs bill to protect child visitation

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 10 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Being a noncustodial parent is like being escorted from the kitchen to the back porch and told to wait until someone remembers you're there, several parents said Tuesday in explaining why they endorse a bill that would criminalize intentional disruption of a parent's visit.

No matter how well two former spouses get along, no matter how close noncustodial parents try to stay with their children, only seeing them a few hours after school on Wednesday and every other weekend — the usual visitation times that are part of a divorce decree — the relationship they had erodes away pretty quickly, the parents who endorse the bill said.

And if the divorce is high-conflict, it's most likely to be higher conflict for the noncustodial parent, said Brian Nathan Godfrey, a noncustodial parent in American Fork and founder of 2 To Love a Child: The Parental Allies for Children on Facebook.

HB197, a bill that would criminalize intentional disruptions of scheduled noncustodial parent time with the kids, was approved in the Utah House on Tuesday, 62-10.

"This bill will make law enforcement actually respect what the court orders for parent time already should have, we hope," Godfrey said, adding that some parents take on the sole financial burden of raising a child but can go years without seeing them if the custodial parent decides to be difficult.

But if noncustodial parents fall behind on child support, no matter what the reason, they are hunted down and brought up-to-date by a state agency whose sole purpose is to make sure child support is paid, he said.

"Utah deserves better than to treat fathers as a paycheck to encourage meal-ticket motherhood," Godfrey said. "Utah should never be a part of a child being used as a pawn in a divorce."

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, said his bill is an attempt do something more than have police answer a domestic-dispute call over parent time, which he said happens across the state every weekend, and then have the investigation stop there.

To read the bill go to le.utah.gov/~2010/htmdoc/hbillhtm/HB0197S01.htm" .

e-mail: jthalman@desnews.com

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