March 21, 2018
VIRGINIA POISED TO MAKE FAMILY COURT REFORM HISTORY
Legislation Supporting Shared Parenting Advances to Gov. Northam
RICHMOND, VA. – National Parents Organization is pleased to announce that the Virginia bill supporting shared parenting has unanimously passed out of both the House and Senate and now awaits Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature.
“It’s encouraging to see Virginia’s legislators unified in their support for what research continuously shows is best for kids – and that’s spending significant time with both of their loving parents,” said Christian Paasch, Chair of National Parents Organization of Virginia. “Gov. Northam previously stated he would sign a shared parenting bill into law, and we hope he will soon do exactly that. As we know, he is also a pediatric neurologist – signing this bill into law would represent a historic moment for children, as it would bring the Commonwealth’s laws in line with decades of child development research.”
As The Washington Post reported, more than 20 states have recently considered legislation supportive of shared parenting – a child custody arrangement that seeks to maximize a child’s time as much as possible with each parent. Virginia’s bill supports shared parenting for fit parents in cases without a history of domestic violence. Delegate Glenn Davis, R-House District 84, is sponsoring the bill (HB 1351).
“Thanks to Delegate Davis, the Commonwealth of Virginia has the opportunity to improve children’s educational achievements, decrease their use of drugs, give them a greater sense of security, improve their overall health and adjustment, and increase the collection rate of their child support payments without any cost to the taxpayer – all by passing shared parenting into law,” said Paasch.
HB 1351 requires the court to formally consider joint/shared custody along with sole custody. While some might argue that Virginia’s statutes already allow for such a consideration, the truth is that approximately 85% of the time, sole or primary custody is still overwhelmingly awarded. Children in sole custody arrangements are exposed to a multitude of risks, such as teen suicide, school dropouts, and behavioral disorders. Close to 60 research studies from numerous states and countries and spanning several decades have shown that most children with shared parenting benefit in many important ways compared to children placed into the primary care of just one parent. (See “Recent Research” below.)
A 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 states have had similar laws for several years, and each year a couple more pass such laws, most recently in Missouri and Kentucky. In fact, a soon-to-be-published study in Arizona found that Arizona’s judges, attorneys, conciliation court staff, and mental health professionals evaluate Arizona’s shared custody law positively overall, and positively in terms of its effects on children’s best interests.
National Parents Organization’s founder and board chair, Ned Holstein, MD, said: “We can’t afford to allow our broken family court system to continue with 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 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."
· Professor Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University summarized a paper of hers that is about to be published as follows: “In 42 of the 51 studies, children who lived in shared physical custody families had better outcomes than children who lived in sole physical custody families. In 4 of the 51 studies the outcomes were mixed, meaning that children in shared physical custody did better on some outcomes and worse on others. In 5 of the 51 studies, the children did equally well in both types of families. It is important to note that, in the studies that considered family income and parental conflict before comparing the children’s outcomes, children in the shared physical custody families still had better outcomes.”
· 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 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