March 16, 2018
NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION NOTES CHILD-FRIENDLY SHARED PARENTING LEGISLATION ADVANCING IN MIDWEST STATES
Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan Among Midwestern States with Bills
Amid this week’s news that shared parenting legislation passed the Iowa Senate, hit the Missouri House calendar, became law in Kentucky last year, and is also advancing in Kansas and Michigan, National Parents Organization applauds lawmakers in many Midwestern states.
“Thank you to the politicians that are acting on the overwhelming child development research showing children do best with shared parenting when their parents divorce or separate,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Chair of National Parents Organization. “These states will see improved children’s educational achievements, decreased use of drugs, a greater sense of childhood security, increased child support payments, and improved overall health and adjustment without any cost to the taxpayer – all by passing shared parenting into law.”
This latest legislative action is part of a nationwide trend. As The Washington Post reported, within the past year 25 states have considered legislation supportive of shared parenting – a child custody arrangement in which a child spends as close to equal time as possible with each parent.
The bills in Iowa, Missouri, Michigan and Kansas all include language encouraging, not mandating, judges to award shared parenting to fit parents. Specifically:
- In Iowa, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2374 on March 12
- In Missouri, House Bill 1667 passed out of the Judiciary Committee and Senate Bill 645 passed out of Seniors, Families and Children Committee. The House bill is expected to be debated on the floor any day now.
- In Kansas, legislators have heard Senate Bill 257
- In Michigan, the number of members of the House who have indicated they would support House 4691, a shared parenting bill, has now climbed over 40; a recent survey of Michigan voters revealed that 84% supported shared parenting as the usual outcome if both parents are fit and there has been no domestic violence.
While shared parenting remains unusual in the United States, an accelerating trend toward shared parenting has developed in recent years. It has been the usual arrangement for several years in Sweden, Belgium, and Australia, and research there has shown much better outcomes for children. A handful of U.S. states have had similar laws for several years, and each year a couple more pass such laws – last year, Kentucky was added to that list.
“Passage of these bill will work to ensure that children receive the consistent love and care of both parents after separation or divorce,” Dr. Holstein said. “We can’t afford to allow our broken family court system to continue the sole custody status quo – our children can’t be deprived of either parent any longer.”
RECENT RESEARCH: SHARED PARENTING VERSUS SINGLE PARENTING
Shared Parenting Data
- In January 2018, The Journal of Child Custody published an update on child development research surrounding what’s best for kids when parents divorce or separate. In the update, Linda Nielsen, a Wake Forest University professor of adolescent and educational psychology, analyzed 60 studies spanning multiple decades and numerous countries. She concluded that shared parenting is better for children than single parenting on almost every measure of wellbeing.
- In September 2017, Acta Paediatrica, a peer-reviewed medical journal in the field of pediatrics, published a paper by Swedish researcher Malin Bergstrom of the Karolinska Institute titled “Preschool children living in joint physical custody arrangements show less psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one parent” – it concluded the mental health of children ages three to five with shared parenting is better on average than the mental health of those in the care of a single parent.
- 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.
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 bonds 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, bringing in research scholars from 18 countries to share their results on shared parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org