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The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates,was once a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.

Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states considering bills this year that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption – even when parents disagree.

Kentucky this year passed a law to make joint physical custody and equal parenting time standard for temporary orders while a divorce is being finalized. Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill last year to presume equal time for child custody plans, but it was vetoed by the governor. And in Michigan, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make equal parenting time the starting point for custody decisions.

The legal push for custody arrangements is in large part a result of years of lobbying by fathers’ rights advocates who feel alienated from their children and burdened by child-support obligations. These groups, including the National Parents Organization, are gaining new traction with support from across the political spectrum, as more lawmakers respond to this appeal for gender equality and, among some conservatives, the frustration of a newly emboldened constituency of men who say they are being shortchanged.

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The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates, was once a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.

Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states this year considering bills that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption — even when parents disagree.

Many of the legislative gains recently have been propelled by the National Parents Organization, a group with roots in the fathers’ rights movement but now a broadened focus on children’s rights and parental equality. 

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The latest information on North Dakota family courts comes from the organization Leading Women for Shared Parenting (LW4SP).

It teaches two important lessons. First, whether children maintain meaningful relationships with both parents, post-divorce is mostly a question of which judge decides the case.

Second, North Dakotans need to take with a huge grain of salt what family lawyers and the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND) say about child custody in the state.

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Each year, state family courts create over an estimated 10,000 single-parent children because of the courts’ decisions to strip custody from divorcing parents. The most common parenting plan for non-custodial parents calls for every other weekend visitation, meaning tens of thousands of Michigan children will never experience one of their two parents dropping them off at school or packing them a lunch. Those duties are assigned entirely to the other parent.

Fortunately, we have a chance to preserve children’s relationships with both parents and reform our family court system. HB 4691 changes current law by creating a starting point of joint custody and substantially equal parenting time in divorce situations.

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Doing the right thing isn’t always popular. But when it is, as it is with a current family court reform bill moving through the Michigan House, there should be no stopping us.

The latest scientific research shows that shared parenting — where children spend as much time as possible with each parent — is in the best interest of children after divorce or separation. And a recent poll conducted by the Market Resource Group showed that a whopping 84 percent of registered voters in Michigan support joint custody and equal parenting time after divorce or separation, as long as there is no history of abuse, addiction or mental illness.

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Doing the right thing isn’t always popular. But when it is, as it is with a current family court reform bill moving through the Michigan House, there should be no stopping us.

The latest scientific research shows that shared parenting—where children spend as much time as possible with each parent—is in the best interest of children after divorce or separation. And a recent poll conducted by the Market Resource Group showed that a whopping 84% of registered voters in Michigan support joint custody and equal parenting time after divorce or separation, as long as there is no history of abuse, addiction or mental illness.

This poll is a wake-up call for policymakers. The status quo is not working.

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With the transition into fall, a new political season heats up — the legislative pre-game. Virginia’s lawmakers are starting to map out plans for what they hope to accomplish when the state legislature reconvenes. Given this timing, we would like to call attention to critical facts on child well being:

During child custody battles in Virginia, and in nearly every other state, judges hold the “best interests of the child” as the standard when assessing parents’ claims. But all too often, courts use old-fashioned and outdated gender roles when interpreting these “best interests of the child” standards and ultimately determining custody.

The result: Roughly 80 percent of the time, courts award sole custody to mothers. Aside from the increased risk factors to which children raised by just one parent are subjected (school dropouts, teen pregnancy, teen suicides, etc.), there is clearly an imbalance when it comes to custody decisions. Mounting, undeniable and empirical evidence proves that shared parenting — a flexible arrangement where children spend as much time as possible with each parent after a divorce or separation — better serves children.

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Missouri members of the Massachusetts-based National Parents Organization say an appeals court ruling last month ignored a 2016 law that reformed family court operations.

That law, included in House Bill 1550, was signed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon and took effect Aug. 28, 2016.

Among its provisions, the new law encourages courts to "maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent."

But the ruling by a three-judge Western District panel upheld "the lower court decision to limit a fit, loving and involved father's parenting time to one night a week and every other weekend (and) made no mention of" the new law, the NPO said in a news release.

"As a Missouri mother, grandmother and someone who worked tirelessly last year on behalf of our children to make this law a reality, I urge all state lawmakers and citizens to join me in condemning the disregard for the law," Linda Reutzel, chair of the national group's Missouri chapter, said.

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Missouri members of the Massachusetts-based National Parents Organization say an appeals court ruling last month ignored a 2016 law that reformed family court operations.

That law, included in House Bill 1550, was signed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon and took effect Aug. 28, 2016.

Among its provisions, the new law encourages courts to "maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent."

But the ruling by a three-judge Western District panel upheld "the lower court decision to limit a fit, loving and involved father's parenting time to one night a week and every other weekend (and) made no mention of" the new law, the NPO said in a news release.

"As a Missouri mother, grandmother and someone who worked tirelessly last year on behalf of our children to make this law a reality, I urge all state lawmakers and citizens to join me in condemning the disregard for the law," Linda Reutzel, chair of the national group's Missouri chapter, said.

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Despite welcome changes in SB 125, National Parents Organization opposes passage of the bill in its present form. This is because NPO’s primary focus is on the promotion of true shared parenting, where both parents are fully engaged in the day-to-day, hands-on work of raising the children. More than 30 years of scientific research has shown, as conclusively as these things can be shown, that this is the best arrangement for children, even when the parents don’t initially agree to it. It should be the default outcome when parents separate. And SB 125 does not encourage this sort of equal co-parenting; instead, it creates contrary incentives and treats parents who are sharing in the raising of their children unfairly. And, not surprisingly, it is the children who are the innocent victims of this unfairness.

Why? Well, start with an uncontroversial assumption: child support is for the children. That seems incontestable. But, if child support is for the children, then when the children have two homes, the child support funds should be divided between the two homes in proportion to the expected expenses on the children in each home. If child support is for the children, then child support should follow the children.

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