MISSOURI JUDGES IGNORE FAMILY COURT REFORM LAW
Child Development Research Drove 2016 Shared Parenting Law
October 19, 2017
Three judges in the Western District of Missouri Court of Appeals recently ruled in violation of a new Missouri statute. This new law clearly directs family courts to protect children in instances of divorce by providing them with as close to equal time as possible with mom and dad.
National Parents Organization calls the attention of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, the Missouri General Assembly, and the people of Missouri to news that this important law has been ignored in a recent decision.
Earlier this month, the Court issued its decision in child custody case King v King, upholding the lower court decision to limit a fit, loving and involved father’s parenting time to one night a week and every other weekend. The decision made no mention of state statute 452.556, established last year with the passage of House Bill 1550. The new law encourages courts to “maximize to the highest degree the amount of time the child may spend with each parent.”
“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. Judges Thomas H. Newton, Alok Ahuja and Cynthia Martin disregarded state law when they signed the decision,” said Linda Reutzel, Chair of National Parents Organization of Missouri. “Instead of following contemporary research and state law, these judges elevated the judicial status quo above a law that protects children’s best interests.”
Scientific evidence and overwhelming support drove Missouri’s custody reform. Research in child development shows shared parenting is best for children (see “Recent Research” below). And Missouri is not alone: 25 states have considered shared parenting reform in the past year.
The new Missouri law received unanimous support in the State Senate and 154-2 support in the House. When former Gov. Jay Nixon signed the bill into law, his office said the law “creates a more equalized approach to child custody and visitation.”
In a piece supporting the law change, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board said, “Missouri legislators should take a bow for passing a new law that helps ensure more successful divorces by giving fathers more consideration in divorce custody decisions.”
Shortly after the law went into effect, the Eastern District of Missouri Court of Appeals cited the law in a decision supportive of shared parenting.
“The Missouri Legislature passed House Bill 1550 and Governor Jay Nixon signed it into law because Missouri judges had been ignoring the massive body of research showing children do much better with shared parenting after their parents separate or divorce. But the Western District of Missouri Court of Appeals essentially decided that various judges’ earlier decisions in custody matters should be given more weight than the opinion of the people of Missouri’s elected legislators and Governor,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Board Chair of National Parents Organization. “The decision to ignore the new law is outrageous, and the lawmakers and people of Missouri should not stand for this usurpation of their authority.”
RECENT RESEARCH: SHARED PARENTING VERSUS SINGLE PARENTING
Shared Parenting Data
· The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “... shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”
· In 2016, Dr. Warshak wrote, “Two years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak consensus report remain supported by science.” He also wrote, “The paper has been translated into at least eighteen languages and has informed legislative deliberations throughout the U.S. and parliamentary deliberations in several countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Finland, Romania, Croatia, and Sweden. Two years after its publication, the consensus report continues to be one of the most downloaded papers from the journal’s website.” He added, “The list of endorsers and their stature and accomplishments reflect the field’s general acceptance of the consensus report’s findings as rooted in settled science from more than four decades of research directly relevant to this topic, including seminal studies by many of the endorsers.”
· The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.
· The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”
· In December, 2016, The American Psychological Association published research by William V. Fabricius of Arizona State University in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law entitled, “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data.” Prof Fabricius’ findings provide “… strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time [up to and including 50/50 overnights –Ed] for infants and toddlers [even younger than one year –Ed], because the benefits [for children-Ed] associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections.” Fabricius shared details on his findings during the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, a May 29-30, 2017 event in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by National Parents Organization and the International Council on Shared Parenting.
Single Parenting Data
According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:
· 63% of teen suicides;
· 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
· 71% of high school drop-outs;
· 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
· 85% of those in prison;
· 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
· 90% of homeless and runaway children.
ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION
National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law 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. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org