NPO news RELEASES
PRESS RELEASE
NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION 

September 26, 2017


Poll: 84% of MI residents support children receiving equal time with both parents after divorce                            

LANSING — A family court reform bill moving in the Michigan House is getting a major boost, as a statewide poll released today finds there is overwhelming support for divorcing parents to have equal time with their kids after divorce.

Despite current Michigan Family Court practices of stripping one parent of custody of their children in most divorce cases, a whopping 84% of registered voters believe that joint custody and equal parenting time is in the best interest of the children, as long as there is no history of abuse, addiction or mental illness, according to a poll conducted by Marketing Resource Group last week.

“Legislators have heard from judges, they’ve heard from attorneys and they’ve heard from lobbyists who all oppose reforms,” said State Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake).  “And now they are hearing from their constituents.  The message is loud and clear.  Residents are demanding the legislature take action to protect children from being torn away from their parents.”  Runestad is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and sponsor of House Bill 4691, which would significantly reform the current system.

Roughly 26,000 kids a year experience the stress of divorcing parents, according to the most recent data by the MichiganDepartment of Health and Human Services. (https://www.mdch.state.mi.us/pha/osr/marriage/Tab3.6.asp)  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.

“This poll is a wake-up call for policymakers sitting on the fence,” said Linda Wright, Michigan Chair of the National Parents Organization. “One of the chief arguments from those opposing reforms is that ‘things are going well and therefore there is no need for change.’ Judges strip custody from one parent in over half of all divorce cases and the survey results show that residents strongly object to that.”  In some counties, as many as 85% of divorce cases result in one parent losing custody of their children, according to county-by-county data released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services last year.

What’s most remarkable about the poll is that 66% of voters strongly believe that having two parents share custody of their children after divorce is in the best interest of the kids. Rarely do any political issues engender such a visceral and overwhelming response. Strong support for shared parenting was evident across every geographic region of the state, both genders and roughly equally among Democrats and Republicans.  Seventy-six percent of registered voters support passing a law to force judges to rule for joint custody unless a parent is unwilling or unable to provide proper care.

HB 4691 changes current law by creating a starting point of joint custody and substantially equal parenting time in divorce situations. Exceptions are created under the legislation for domestic violence, abuse, neglect, or any other factor a judge may deem to materially compromise the health, safety or welfare of the child. Current law doesn’t require any finding of poor parenting in order to strip custody. They must only find that one parent is a bit “better” than the other when comparing 12 statutory factors.

“Our polling showed strong support across the board for shared child custody between parents,” said Tom Shields, President of MRG. “Men and women, Republicans and Democrats and those who have gone through a divorce all overwhelmingly support the fairness of joint custody and the proposed legislation to make it happen.”

“Not only is the support across the board, but it is intense as well as 65 percent of voters said they felt strongly about this issue,” said Shields. “Any issue that has 60 percent of the voters strongly supporting it is in the 'moms and apple pie' category.”

National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bond with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. In 2014, National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws. This spring, National Parents Organization sponsored the 2017 International Conference on Shared Parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org. 

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CONTACTS:

Linda Wright, National Parents Organization, Michigan Chair                            616-581-3665(c)

State Rep. Jim Runestad (R-Highland), Sponsor of HB 4691                               248-802-5500(c)          

Tom Shields, Pollster and President of Marketing Resource Group                      517-327-4400(o)

 

Actual wording of the survey conducted by MRG of Lansing:

Do you agree or disagree that joint equally shared parenting time, given there is no history of abuse, addiction or mental illness, is in the best interest of the child? [IF AGREE / DISAGREE, ASK] Would that be strongly (agree / disagree) or just somewhat (agree / disagree)?

 

                        Strongly Agree .....................................  66.2%

                        Somewhat Agree ................................  18.0%

                        Neither Agree nor Disagree ..................  3.0%

                        Somewhat Disagree ..............................  4.2%

                        Strongly Disagree ..................................  4.2%

                        Don't Know ............................................  4.0%

                        Refused .................................................  0.5%

 

                        TOTAL AGREE......................................... 84.2%

                        TOTAL DISAGREE...................................... 8.2%

 

 

21.  Would you support or oppose the Michigan Legislature passing a law to require family court judges to rule in favor of joint equally shared parenting time unless the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit, unwilling, or unable to care for the child? [IF SUPPORT / OPPOSE, ASK:] Would that be strongly (support / oppose) or just somewhat (support / oppose)?

 

                        Strongly support ...................................  51.7%

                        Somewhat support ..............................  24.5%

                        Neither support / oppose (VOL) ............  3.8%

                        Somewhat oppose ................................  7.2%

                        Strongly oppose ....................................  7.8%

                        Don't know ............................................  4.5%

                        Refused .................................................  0.5%

 

                        TOTAL SUPPORT...................................... 76.2%

                        TOTAL OPPOSE....................................... 14.9%





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