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The Senate Social Services Standing Committee reversed its earlier action and voted out favorably a bill that would provide penalties for a custodial parent who denies visitation rights to the non-custodial parent without just cause. Last week, the panel tabled SB132, sponsored by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, but later voted 2-1 to reconsider the action.

The bill would give a judge discretion to find a custodial parent in contempt of court for denying court-ordered visitation rights, unless that parent could provide valid reasons. On the second finding of contempt, the custodial parent could be sent to jail for 24 hours, and the non-custodial parent given care of the children during that time."This is a problem that's not going to go away," Hillyard said. "And I can tell you scores of stories about fathers who don't get to see their children because the mother is angry or just says no."

In 80 percent of divorces, the mother receives custody of the children, but with joint custody provisions and a shift in attitudes toward custody, Hillyard said he expects to see those numbers change significantly in the next decade.

A number of people in the audience spoke against the bill, citing fears that a child who was sexually abused would be turned over to the abuser if the other parent tried to deny visitation privileges.