Governor Dennis Daugaard put pen to paper Wednesday and signed the shared parenting bill into law. It gives judges in the state the option to consider equal custody for parents involved in custody battles.
"People are coming to me all the time with their stories, and the more stories I hear. I'm like 'Oh my God, things have got to change,'" Amber Madsen said.
That change will be a little easier now that Gov. Daugaard has signed the shared parenting bill into law. Amber Madsen is one of many parents who have fought to get the bill passed. She says the number of families dealing with custody conflicts is surprising.
"They weren't allowed to see their child more than the standard South Dakota visitation which is the four days a month. Those are the ones that I learn now that wow, this is really common," Madsen said.
Madsen and her ex-husband have used shared parenting for seven years. It's worked very well for them, but even in the early stages of their divorce, she was able to get a glimpse into the custody loopholes from her attorney that could favor one parent over the other.
"He alluded to me how easy it would be for me to gain full custody of my kids. He more or less said 'We'll put this in our back pocket and if we need to, we'll move forward and get full custody,'" Madsen said.
She now feels those loopholes are being closed as judges can consider shared parenting as a legal option. The new code, she says, also opens new possibilities for families that do break apart not to be completely broken.
"If my children were only allowed to see their father four days a month, do they really respect that parent and see that parent as an equal parent? If the State doesn't see that parent as equal, how does a child see that parent as equal?" Madsen said.
Madsen says she wasn't surprised by the lack of opposition to the bill. With the support of the South Dakota Bar, she says it was only a matter of when it was passed, and not whether it would pass.