Schuitmaker introduces bill to remove barriers to stepparent adoptions

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation to improve the process of stepparent adoptions passed out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary Tuesday.

Senate Bill 458, introduced by state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, would address the duplicitous process of custody trials in stepparent adoptions that was upheld in a recent court decision.

“All too often we see this scenario,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Even though a parent has no contact with their child, the parent with physical custody is forced to go through the complicated court proceedings — twice — in order for their new spouse to adopt the child. We should not be punishing those who have been abandoned; this legislation would simplify the process of stepparent adoptions and ensure these children have the opportunity to be raised in a loving family.”

A recent Kent County Circuit Court case terminated a father’s rights after the father had not financially supported or had contact with the child in several years. This allowed the stepfather the opportunity to adopt the child. The Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court then reversed that decision, stating that sole custody must be awarded first in order for a stepparent to adopt.

“Judicial proceedings are often expensive and time-consuming,” Schuitmaker said. “Requiring two separate trials means additional burdens are placed on both families and the court system. Eliminating this additional step will save valuable time and resources.”

This legislation would also provide that when a $0.00 support order is issued, it can be treated in the same manner as if no support order had been entered when determining if a parent is meeting his or her obligations to the child.

SB 458 is now before the full Senate for consideration.


Senators introduce bills to restore charitable tax credits

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation introduced in the Senate Wednesday seeks to restore tax credits for certain donations that were eliminated in 2011.

Senate Bills 461-464, introduced by state Sens. Patrick Colbeck, Tonya Schuitmaker and Goeff Hansen, would restore credits for charitable donations to libraries, colleges and universities, food banks and homeless shelters. Credits also would be reinstated for adoption expenses and automobile donations.

“Families and individuals know the most appropriate way to spend their money; they do not need the government’s oversight,” said Colbeck, R-Canton. “By restoring these deductions we are putting more hard-earned money back into the hands of taxpayers and providing them with an incentive to reach out and help their neighbors in the manner in which they see fit.”

Schuitmaker agreed.

“These charitable programs have a positive effect on our citizens and our society,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “When these credits were eliminated, it negatively impacted many of these groups. Giving taxpayers an incentive to donate to these programs will go a long way toward protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”

The charitable tax credits were eliminated in 2011 as part of a comprehensive tax reform that sought to reduce taxes and treat taxpayers equally.

“Parents who have the means to provide loving and permanent families for children through adoption may not be able to afford to adopt,” said Hansen, R-Hart. “Restoring the adoption credit will benefit parents and children by making adoption a more viable option again.”

SB 461, introduced by Colbeck, would allow taxpayers to receive a credit for donations made to various programs in public art, libraries, radio, institutions of higher learning and museums. SB 462, sponsored by Schuitmaker, would allow a taxpayer to receive a credit for donations made to food banks and kitchens, homeless shelters, and community foundations.

SB’s 463 and 464, introduced by Hansen, would allow a taxpayer to receive a credit to offset qualified expenses for adoptions and a credit for automobile donations to qualified charitable organizations, respectively.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance for further consideration.


Schuitmaker announces office hours events for September


District Director Deb Shields and the general public


Office hours

When and where:


  • Tuesday, Sept. 8

10 – 11 a.m.

Antwerp Township Hall

24821 Front St.


11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Paw Paw District Library

609 West Michigan Ave.

Paw Paw


  • Tuesday, Sept. 15

9 – 10 a.m.

Fennville City Hall

222 South Maple St.



10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Mugshots Coffeehouse

340 Water St.


1 – 2 p.m.

Plainwell City Hall

211 North Main St.



  • Wednesday, Sept. 16

8 – 9 a.m.

The Breakfast Place

206 North Main St.


10 – 11 a.m.

Railroad Cafe

555 Railroad St.


Noon – 1 p.m.

Saugatuck-Douglas Library

10 Mixer St.



  • Tuesday, Sept. 22

8:30 – 9:30 a.m.

Daily Brews Gourmet Coffee

128 South Main St.


10 – 11 a.m.

Biggby Coffee

6082 Kalamazoo Ave. SE



  • Wednesday, Sept. 23

10 – 11 a.m.

Fillmore Township Hall

4219 52nd St.





State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and District Director Deb Shields welcome area residents to attend mobile district office hours for September throughout Van Buren and Allegan counties, in addition to Kentwood and Gaines Township.

District Director Deb Shields will be on hand to answer questions and respond to concerns any residents of the district may have. No appointment is necessary.

For more information, please contact Deb Shields at (269) 303-5564 or by email at