July 10, 2017

Shared Parenting After Divorce Positions Men and Women Equally as Providers, Caregivers

National Parents Organization appreciates that The Wall Street Journal recently tackled an important family issue with the article “How Can the U.S. Get More Women in the Workforce? Ask Canada.” As the article details, Canada has a significantly higher percentage of women in the workforce compared to the U.S. The article examines what the U.S. can do to follow in Canada’s footsteps to up its percentage, and National Parents Organization would like to add a crucial option to the list: make shared parenting after divorce or separation the norm. Shared parenting is a flexible arrangement where children spend as close to equal time with each parent as possible after divorce or separation.

“Our nation’s antiquated family courts are standing in the way of women’s advancement in the workplace. Instead of awarding shared parenting after parents separate or divorce, the family courts still award sole physical custody to mothers in more than 80 percent of cases. While this feels like a custody battle ‘victory’ at first, over the course of time mothers realize that they have been trapped in the homemaker role,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Board Chair of National Parents Organization. “Treating mothers as homemakers and fathers as breadwinners who pay child support keeps women in a position of dependency and is out of touch with modern society. Thankfully, shared parenting is not only better for women who want career advancement, but it has been convincingly shown to be better for children too.”

Shared parenting is better for fathers too, who find that having only every other weekend with their children often leads to heartache.

So shared parenting is a triple-win, for mothers who can have the time to pursue demanding career goals, fathers who can maintain close and loving relationships with their children, and the children themselves, who are happier and more successful with shared parenting.

While shared parenting remains unusual in the United States, the reform is moving forward. For instance, it has been the norm in countries including Sweden for years, and research presented this spring at the 2017 International Conference on Shared Parenting in Boston was overwhelmingly supportive of the two-parent model. States including Kentucky and Missouri have passed laws supportive of shared parenting within the past year, and, as the Fast Company article “Are Custody Laws Standing in the Way of Gender Equity?” reported, at least 25 states total have considered the legislative reform this year.

“Our family courts need to stop placing sole responsibility for child rearing on mothers and encourage their career achievements by allowing fathers to assume equal responsibility for raising children,” Dr. Holstein said. “Shared parenting is most important for the children, who desperately want and need equal time with mom and dad following divorce, but it has additional benefits to the parents, including promoting equal opportunity to accomplish professional goals.”

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