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Should decisions about child custody be made by judge or jury?

When one has a difficult decision to make, it can sometimes be easier if one does not have to do it alone. In cases where divorcing parents cannot agree on child custody arrangements, the decision is usually made by a judge. This could be set to change for California residents if a proposed initiative gains the required level of support.

If successful, it would mean that parents involved in such disputes would have the right to request that a jury, rather than a judge, decide who should be awarded legal custody of the child. California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, recently announced that those who are backing the initiative may now commence the collecting of signatures. Supporters will be required to submit petitions, complete with valid signatures, by December 13.

In order for the submission to be valid, it will require the support of 365,880 registered voters. This figure represents five percent of the total number of votes cast in support of the governor of California in the last general election, which was held in 2014. Fulfilling these criteria will make the proposal eligible for the ballot in November 2018.

Upon successful implementation, the financial impact would depend on a number of factors, including how it will be interpreted by the state courts. Whether the use of juries in deciding the outcome of child custody cases will prove to be a popular or effective method remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that the best interest of the child should always prevail. Where possible, maintaining civil discourse will help towards smoother negotiations, and can assist everyone to move forward more positively.

Source: Hollywood, CA. Patch, "Measure Would Put Child Custody Battles in the Hands of Juries", June 18, 2016

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