Metro divorced parents working to change child custody laws in Missouri, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Divorced parents spoke Tuesday at state capitols in Kansas and Missouri, sharing the benefits of equal time with their kids. Moms and dads are hoping to change the laws in custody decisions.

Paul Schwenneson and his kids set the table for dinner, but memories at mealtime weren’t always on the menu.

“I’m a good dad. I was a great dad all along, and I absolutely got destroyed by the system,” he said.

Schwenneson said his children paid the price.

“None of this was their choice. They didn’t ask for this. They shouldn’t have to pay that price,” he said.

The father said after he and their mother split, he suffered through three years of separation based on custody laws in Kansas that historically favor moms.

“Kids need two parents," he said. "They’ve got to have two parents, and that means sharing equally. In the courts, that is the exception not the norm.”

He’s now part of the National Parents Organization, which spoke Tuesday in both state capitols, pushing for shared parenting from the start of legal proceedings.

“We need to start at a position of assuming, the going-in assumption, is that both parents are good parents," Schwenneson said. "You’re innocent until proven guilty and the assumption should be equality.”

Schewenneson said he’s aware this might also mean some unfit parents will get an equal split from the start. His answer: “We’ve got to figure out a system for dealing with that, and dealing with it quickly. Nobody wants kids in danger.”

He also said the only people who testified Tuesday in opposition were attorneys and judges.

“I suppose not surprisingly from a lot of the attorneys who frankly have a vested interest in seeing this system in which actually promotes conflict and promotes litigation,” he said.

The metro father said he’ll spend his days now making up for lost time.

“We’re never going to get those years back," he said. "Those years were, I could only see them at best every other weekend. Those are golden years of your kids’ lives.”

Schwenneson said something's got to give.

“There has to be some clever way to engineer this where innocent people aren’t chewed up, innocent kids aren’t forced to say goodbye to one parent, as well as make sure that bad people don’t get to parent kids," he said. "We’ll get there. That’s what this process is about.”