October 6th, 2014 The Federalist by Leslie Loftis
What is the best custody arrangement for children after divorce? Most of us outside of family lawyers and courts don’t think about that question until we are faced with it. And then adults tend to choose administrative stability, figuring the kids are as exhausted and spent as themselves. Children of divorce face such an upheaval that it makes sense to adults that the children need time to rest and recover, and so we prioritize routine.
Certainly our custody assumptions support this kind of stability. Typically, one parent gets primary custody, while the other gets Wednesday evenings, every other weekend, half the summer, and alternating holidays. This is so normalized that I was recently encouraged to host a women’s event on Wednesday night because that’s when the kids of divorce are with their dads. It is widespread and predictable.
But those custody norms are informed by old research. We have new research now. In fact, we have enough research that we have long-term studies of children of divorce and meta studies—studies of those studies, a few of which I covered here last summer.
Grant Children Their Rights, Too
What children want and what children need—what they see as stability—is open access to both parents. From a 2000 paper by William V. Fabricus and Jeffery Hall on young adult perspectives on living arrangements after a divorce, reporting on their follow-up in the late ’90s with children of divorce they had studied in the ’70s:
Earlier research on younger children’s perspectives on living arrangements has demonstrated that children desire free and frequent access to noncustodial parents. For example, Rosen (1979) found that 60% of children wanted unrestricted contact, regardless of whether the noncustodial parent was mother or father. Children repeatedly insisted that being able to see the noncustodial parents whenever they wished and being able to see that parent often made their parents’ divorces tolerable for them.
Kelly and Wallerstein (1977) reported that young children viewed the typical every-other-weekend visitation arrangement as severely inadequate. ‘The only younger children reasonably content with the visiting situation were those 7- and 8-year-olds visiting 2 or 3 times a week, most often by pedaling to their father’s apartment on a bicycle’ (p. 52).
…The perspectives of young children, although compelling, have not had much influence in public policy debates about custody and visitation. Young children’s feelings may be suspected of being relatively temporary, malleable, and ultimately not strongly connected to measurable outcomes. The public policy debate about custody and visitation has generally been framed in terms of parents’ (and, most recently, grandparents’) rights rather than children’s wishes (Mason, 1999). Thus, it is important that Wallerstein and Lewis (1998) have recently reported on the longitudinal follow-up of the perspectives of these children now that they are adults. Their report is based on a subsample of 25 respondents who were the youngest (now ages 27 to 32) in the longitudinal study.
Wallerstein and Lewis (1998) found that many of their respondents reported that their visitation schedules with their fathers had been too disruptive and too inflexible and that when this was true they got little enjoyment or benefit from visitation in the way of enhanced relationships with their fathers. As adults, they feel strongly now, as they did then, that their wishes should have been taken into account, and they remain angry and resentful that they were not.
But the children’s desires have had a hard time breaking through the conventional wisdom. Myths about single-adult attachment and simple routines persist. Considering the relative advantages for children of intact families, that children need both parents should not surprise us. Yet it does.
Historical and Practical Ruts
Divorce wasn’t commonplace until the 1970’s. Before then, social scientists studied orphaned children and mother and young child attachment. Mothers were the primary caregivers of children, so studying them first made sense. Then, when the divorce rate spiked, courts didn’t have other information to advise them about the best custody arrangements for children. They granted primary mother care based on the only available research and the prevailing cultural practice. Then social science started to study the effects of a fractured family or father absence.
Courts should grant shared custody to divorcing parents unless presented with clear and convincing evidence this arrangement is not in the best interest of the child.
After about four decades of such studies, we have another answer to “What is best for the children?” (Or really we find another example of being led astray by partial data that our common sense should have warned us to be wary of back in the ’70s.) Absent extenuating circumstances such as abuse, children want and children need open access to both parents.
Advocacy groups for children of fractured homes are opening all over the world trying to break though the old myths with the new studies. They typically seek a presumption of shared parenting rather than the current unstated presumption of primary maternal custody, which covers for an epidemic of familial alienation when the sole-custody parent restricts visitation by other family members.
Simply, courts should grant shared custody, roughly 60 to 40 percent splits of time, to divorcing parents unless presented with clear and convincing evidence that this arrangement is not in the best interest of the child. Abuse, addiction, instability—evidence of each could prompt the court to grant custody to one parent. The court would simply start from the idea that the child should have time with each parent.
The Opposition: Lawyers and Feminists
As simple and logical as that presumption sounds, the two main groups actively resistant to shared parenting make for powerful opposition: lawyers and, paradoxically, feminists. That lawyers oppose shared parenting makes sense. Shared parenting arrangements tend to reduce parental conflict and therefore the continued need for lawyers and their fees. (See generally, the myths link above, page 3 and studies cited in footnotes 16-21.) But feminists, a group often heard demanding more domestic participation from fathers and who we might expect to vehemently object to the old legal assumptions that expect the mother to provide primary care for children, their opposition to shared parenting makes no sense.
In other contexts, feminists complain about the cultural assumptions of childrearing putting an unfair burden on women, but when the law tries to redress that burden and demand that parents share in childrearing, then feminists object. Why? Since courts have overwhelmingly awarded primary custody to mothers in the past, feminists see shared parenting as part of the men’s rights movement. They object to shared parenting as men trying to usurp women’s power by trying to assume the parental responsibility women normally assume, as an attempt to lower child support payments, and as society failing to protect women from abusive men. A particularly tight contortion in reasoning from a recommendation of the National Association of Women and the Law in Canada, where a shared parenting law was defeated back in May:
In fact, as long as women remain the primary caregivers of children, women’s equality is in the best interests of children, and law reform can and must simultaneously take into account and promote both the best interests of children and the equality interests of women.
So while the assumptions about mother care hold, then the assumptions should be followed? I thought feminism was, partially, about breaking assumptions about women’s roles. (Pause here for a moment to ponder that although non-feminists keep getting lectured about how feminism isn’t anti-men, their actions suggest otherwise. They turn their own goals inside-out for simple spite.)
Playing to type, in the North Dakota political battle over the “new and improved” Measure 6, the only active vote for a presumption for shared parenting in this U.S. election cycle, the group running the opposition campaign is all lawyers plus a male pastor and a female domestic violence advocate—and they seem to be using State Bar resources to oppose the legislation. The group that sponsored the measure, however, isn’t the stereotypical men’s rights groups. That group is all women.
Shared parenting is about family.
There are many fathers’ rights groups who support shared parenting, of course, but that is only because fathers are usually the alienated parent. I’m a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting and the stories we receive in that organization are overwhelmingly from women. Some are mothers who hardly see their children. Others are grandmothers and aunts who cannot see their grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, because their son or brother is denied access to his children. The heartache strains other family relationships, like the distraught father who avoids talking to his mother so he can keep his angst from overflowing or the mortified sister who inadvertently posted a FB link that upset the alienating parent and ended the little contact her brother had with his children.
Shared parenting isn’t about fathers’ rights. It isn’t even just about children’s rights, although their hurts are certainly the deepest because they last a lifetime. Shared parenting is about family. Divorce is hard enough, severing the family’s spirit. Physically splitting the family as a matter of course means those spiritual wounds cannot heal for anyone, especially the children.
It is time to stop playing money and politics over children from fractured homes. They have enough to deal with. We should do what is best for them. And the four decades of studies really just tell us what we intuitively know: Children need their parents—both of them.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
August 15th, 2014 Andrew Ozaki
His service to his country took away his leg, and now former Army Sgt. Ben Marksmeier said the state’s child custody and support laws are taking away his son.
“The only thing I was thinking about was my son, my unborn child, and then I come back only to have him ripped out of my life,” said Marksmeier.
Marksmeier and other noncustodial fathers told their emotional stories to a special commission looking into revising the state’s child support guidelines.
“I currently only see my child for four hours a month. Four hours,” said Marksmeier.
Legal Aid, an Omaha nonprofit organization, said payments for some parents are unrealistically high and don’t change or are slow to change if the person loses their job or their financial status changes. It places them in a rut they can’t climb out of.
“They are incredibly broken and ashamed. And when they are broken and ashamed, it interferes with their relationships with their children,” said Muirne Heaney, an attorney for Legal Aid.
Noncustodial parents in Nebraska rank in the top 10 in paying child support but still owe $70 million in back payments. Child welfare advocates say their only concern is to make sure the basic needs of every child is met. Even those who can afford the payments said it’s about equal parenting time, though.
“If there were a way to trade money for time, believe me, I would be the first in that line,” said Eddy Santamaria, a noncustodial father.
The chair of the commission, Brad Ashford, agrees changes need to be made to allow more equal time for both parents.
“Let’s make sure the child support piece is right as well, so that when we think about equal parenting — the child support guidelines reflect the reality of daily life,” said Ashford.
That’s what Marksmeier and others are asking for.
“Fix this, so dads can be dads,” said Santamaria.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Los Angeles, CA –
Jason Patric, Actor, Activist and Founder of ‘Stand Up for Gus’, will be going back to court on Tuesday, September 2 to resume the trial that was erroneously aborted by the prior trial judge and directed to take place by the Court of Appeal, which was ruled in Jason’s favor.
“The visitation initially had been denied because Danielle Schreiber further appealed to the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court denied her request, so the Court of Appeal decision stands and the trial resumes on the issue of whether Jason can establish himself as the father under Family Code Section 7611, in that he held Gus out as his own son and received him into his home.” – Jason’s attorney, Fred Silberberg, said.
“After over two years of unending struggle that can’t be described, and having not seen my son Gus for 79 weeks, I finally have the trial I was denied thanks to my victory in the Appellate and the California Supreme Court. It begins September 2nd. It means everything. This day voices will be heard and we will have hope, care, love, and soon, VICTORY.” – Jason Patric said.
A number of celebrities have joined forces along with Jason to create and launch a PSA for the organization he founded in honor of his son, ‘Stand Up for Gus.’ Some celebrities in the PSA include: Brad Pitt, Chris Evans, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Wright, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg. All the celebrities in the campaign share in the PSA why they “Stand Up” for Gus and for all the children affected by parental alienation. The PSA will officially launch next week nationwide.
Actor & Activist, Jason Patric recently founded Stand Up For Gus, a non-profit organization raising awareness of the issue of parent alienation as a result of his devastating custody battle with his ex-girlfriend over his son Gus. The organization has raised over $200,000 since last October and their momentum is continuing to grow and recently gave $100,000 to Levitt & Quinn Family Law Firm in Los Angeles for them to provide legal assistance to local families. At Levitt & Quinn, the first two months were undertaken on a half-time basis while they worked to staff the project fully. As of June 1st, the project is full time and since the project’s inception in April 2014-29 parents have received legal assistance and 13 have received representation including brief service, preparation of paperwork and court appearances in custody, visitation and paternity cases.
Stand Up For Gus raises monetary support for alienated parents desperately trying to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children, and funds raised provide free legal representation to low-income families with limited resources struggling with costly custody battles. An advocate for shared parenting, Stand Up For Gus hopes to shed light on and reform our broken family court system.
Visit the Stand Up For Gus website at www.standupforgus.comRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
On May 17th, 2004, Massachusetts became the first US State to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. In the following decade, eighteen additional States passed laws allowing gay marriage and fourteen others have rulings moving through appellate courts. It would be almost impossible to argue that allowing gay marriage in Massachusetts didn’t help its advocates in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California and elsewhere.
Clearly, there are differences between the gay marriage and shared parenting movements, as there would be with any two social issues. High on the list of differences is that lawyers favor gay marriage, in part because it opens an entirely new revenue stream, and oppose shared parenting, as it lessens parental conflict, thus lowering their revenue. But amongst the similarities is how shared parenting will be implemented throughout the world; territory by territory with each new conversion helping those that follow.
Every social movement needs that kind of turning point; be it in Massachusetts for gay marriage, the Montgomery Bus Boycott for African American Civil Rights or the march to the Dharasana Salt Works for the Indian Independence Movement. Recently, such an opportunity has emerged to launch a shared parenting movement, and I’m personally asking YOU for help.
On July 21st, North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger certified that local advocates had collected enough signatures to have a Shared Parenting ballot initiative included in the November 4th election. To the best of our knowledge, this is the only territory in the world where citizens will have a binding vote on shared parenting, without having to go through attorney controlled Judiciary Committee’s or Task Forces. Further cause for optimism is in poll after poll, shared parenting is extremely popular with the public, with no difference in the opinion of women and men.
Additionally, four national shared parenting organizations, Leading Women for Shared Parenting, Divorce Corp, Stand Up for Gus and American Coalition for Fathers & Children, will be working seamlessly with North Dakota advocates to educate the public about the benefits of shared parenting. Each group brings unique skills and assets, and jointly, we’ll be more effective than individually. For the first time, we have the opportunity to bring prominent women, attorneys, domestic violence experts, celebrities, prominent social scientists and others to the cause. After lots of hard work, the pieces are coming together, to have North Dakota be a launching point for a shared parenting movement. I’ll promise you, if we can win in North Dakota, it will increase the momentum in your territory. That’s why you should get involved.
So why do I hope you don’t like this? Because I want you to spend your time much more effectively.
“Liking” things on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere does practically nothing to help the cause and we need you to take more substantial action. We’re already aware those who profit from the conflict generated by the existing family court system have met to plan their opposition strategy. These extremists oppose doing what 110 of the world’s leading child development experts say is best for children, primarily for personal financial reasons. They’ve generated millions from this system, and are willing to spend some of it to defend their income stream.
To offset them, we need your help.
If you’re reading this article on your smart phone, tablet or via your home internet connection, it’s almost certain you could find $5 to donate to the cause. Will you? I just did, and it took less than 90 seconds. Some of you are able to invest more; $20, $50 or $100. Can you? Yes, we’re talking to larger donors in the hopes of receiving more significant donations, but we need to show commitment from the public to further their interest. Let me tell you how.
There are currently two organizations who need your financial support.
The first is North Dakota Shared Parenting for Kids (NDSP4K), which is the main site for North Dakota advocates who have gotten shared parenting on the ballot. I’m asking you to please, make a donation to this site through the link provided here. Donations will be used to ensure the benefits of shared parenting are communicated honestly to the public. The site also has impressive software, allowing you to share the news of your donation with all of your social media friends, letting them know of your belief in shared parenting. Please use this technology to ask your friends to donate as well.
The second is Stand Up for Gus which is currently raising funds through a link provided here. Funds raised by Stand Up For Gus will be used to offer support towards the North Dakota Shared Parenting Initiative and launch a National Public Service Announcement helping millions of alienated children.
If we’re going to succeed in building this movement, we need leaders who will recognize, develop and seize opportunities. We also need everyone to understand, FUNDRAISING IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY. Please do your part; invest 2 minutes and $20 (or more) now.
So I hope you now understand why I truly don’t want you to “like” this article… but I also hope you’ll “share” this message with everyone.
Leading Women For Shared ParentingRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )