ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A new bill could impact how often some parents get to see their children.
House Bill 229 pushes to have more split custody arrangements, instead of defaulting to a custodial and non-custodial parent. A St. Louis dad is part of a team advocating for the change.
Right now, if single or divorcing parents cannot agree on custody out of court, it's up to the judge. Some argue the courts favor mothers over fathers. But this bill would set the starting point for any child custody case to be 50/50, until one side proves it should be otherwise.
It's an arrangement Mark Ludwig only wishes he would have had.
"I would just sit here crying every night," said Ludwig, thinking of the time after his son was born when he didn't get to see him.
Ludwig kept a diary of every day of his 9-year-old son's life and on many of the first pages, he wrote of the pain of not being together.
"Not only am I not one of the only ones, this is prevalent all over America," said Ludwig.
Ludwig is the non-custodial parent, meaning his son lives with his mom and Ludwig sees him on weekends, and sometimes for a few hours during the week. He never imagined the courts would so quickly set that arrangement.
"My initial thought was immediately both of us would get 50/50 custody, the child has a mother and a father. I was highly surprised," said Ludwig.
In the years since, Ludwig became the executive director of Americans for Equal Shared Parenting. He is part of a larger group pushing to change how custody cases are decided in Missouri.
"The bill is a 50/50 rebuttal of presumption. What that means is when two parents walk into a courtroom after a divorce, the child is presumed to have equal access to both parents. It's rebuttable, meaning we don't want to give a cookie cutter approach," said Ludwig.
But some family law attorneys worry the change would be taken too far.
"Whenever we talk about a rebuttable presumption, when we make a new law, it does seem over time that becomes not rebuttable, but chiseled in stone. And the rebuttable part goes away," said Cary Mogerman, attorney at Carmody MacDonald. "It's saying every family should be treated the same way and every family is quite different."
"Right now we have a rubber stamp almost of one parent is going to get every other weekend. We're just wanting to move the ball to the 50 yard line when you start off," said Ludwig.
This bill already passed the Missouri House and just this week a Senate committee. Next, it will go to the Senate floor and, if passed, would still have to be signed by the governor.
Ludwig is pushing for similar legislation in other states, too.