By Steven B. Guy
Things that need to change, don’t until someone decides to make the effort, and joins their effort with other like minded people. For example, a bill currently making its' way through the Oklahoma Legislative process.
HB 1276, whose current author is District 30 State Representative Mark Lawson, is summarized as follows: requires the court to grant equally shared parenting time, if requested by a parent, unless it finds doing so would not be in the child's best interests. If the court deviates from shared parenting time, it must approve a plan that maximizes the amount of time each parent has with the child.”
Morris area resident Chris Rainbolt, is a disabled military veteran, whose struggles against the current system have, over five difficult years, merged with the legislative efforts to change the status quo.
Rainbolt visited the offices of the Morris News Tuesday morning to tell us a little about himself and more about the situation that has led to HB 1276.Rainbolt
“My parents lived five miles south of town. I went to high school at Preston, ended up in the military did seven years in the military including one tour each in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once I got out of the military, I decided to have a family, which I did.”
Rainbolt did his tour of duty in Iraq in 2006 for 15 months. “I was stationed, pretty much in central Baghdad. I was part of a private security detail, looking after the President and Prime Minister of Iraq, a lot of the High Council. Afghanistan was in 2011, nine months, as a route clearance operator. Basically our job was to find IED's (improvised explosive devices).”
As noted earlier, Rainbolt returned home and started a family, which eventually included one child, a son.
“I ended up going through the court systems here. As soon as I walked in, I realized that I didn't stand a chance when it came to my parental rights. It was so one-sided. Whether you represent yourself or are represented by an attorney, it just didn't matter.” “Ninety percent are fathers and ten percent are mothers because this issue isn't necessarily just a man's right issue, it's a children's rights issue.”
Asked about his connection with the beginnings of what would become HB 1276, Rainbolt explained, “I started working with an organization called Americans For Equal Shared Parenting through Facebook. The leader of that organization, Mark Ludwig, has been in politics, nationally, for almost 30 years. I reached out to them because I was curious to see if there were more people out there like me who wanted to do something about, instead of just complaining and whining.
“Mark told me we needed to start, at a 50-50 rebuttable presumption. Several states had already done it.
“That puts you at a starting point that can't be taken away from you. Both sides go in equal.” Rainbolt stated.
In regard to HB 1276, Rainbolt noted the original author was District 5 State Representative Josh West, veteran and Purple Heart recipient. “Before I had a meeting with Scott Fetgatter (District 16) and Mark Lawson, Josh West had already filed this bill. Since Rep. Lawson is currently Chair of the Family and Childrens' Services Committee, it was decided to have him take over the authorship of the bill. It couldn't have turned out better.” Rainbolt remarked, “He's done amazing with it.”
HB1276 was determined to have no fiscal or revenue considerations for the State. In other words, it wouldn't cost the State anything to implement.
The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee by a unanimous 17-0 vote on February, then moved to the State Senate. “We will have a hearing in two weeks.” Rainbolt said. He added there are several other bills relating to parental rights, noting one in particular-SB 65. `”SB 65 relates to the Court putting findings into the final divorce decree. Many times, when you go through divorce, there are no findings given. So if a judge wants to take away time with your children, they need to explain why they are doing it and let you know so you can appeal it.” Rainbolt stated.
He went on to say the rare objection to the bill it is simply “a bunch of angry dads who don't want to pay child support.”
“That's not necessarily true. We just want more time with our children. That time is important.”
Rainbolt is optimistic that HB 1276 will make it all the way through the process and lauded the efforts of Rep. Fetgatter. “He was the one who took it on himself to get hold of Mark Lawson. He was the one that got everything organized.”
This entire process has energized Rainbolt's efforts on behalf of veterans and children. He is currently Legislative Lead for “Parents Fight Together”, an organization which can be found on Facebook.