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Excitement in Missouri, Maryland and Florida

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February 16, 2016

NPO Logo National Parents Organization improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting every child's right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.
Missouri Effort Captures National Publicity
By Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Founder and Acting Executive Director, National Parents Organization
Recent efforts in Missouri to advance shared parenting are a case study in how National Parents Organization can work hand-in-hand with your local group to apply pressure for changing the family courts.

A Missouri grandmother, Linda Reutzel, and others in Missouri have been working with their legislators to introduce a strong shared parenting bill. We reported those efforts in this article on February 7.

And we analyzed the Missouri bill in another article here.

Then, just at the time the bill had its legislative hearing, National Parents Organization called in its PR firm, Proventus, Inc., to publicize the Missouri effort. The result has been over 30 articles in newspapers, TV and radio stations throughout the nation, all since February 8. The media coverage has included articles in The Washington Times, ABC News, San Francisco Chronicle, The Kansas City Star, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and stories aired by local NPR and CBS affiliates. Additionally, the media coverage has also spanned multiple outlets in Canada.

The news blitz since Feb. 8, has featured Cape Girardeau, MO grandmother Linda Reutzel, who chairs the Missouri chapter of NPO. The media has fastened on one of Linda’s best quotes, one that resonates with so many of our members. After her son was slapped with the usual every other weekend insult with his daughter, Linda wrote, "We walked out [of court] thinking, what just happened? Some guy who knows nothing about how close a daughter was to her daddy, to her mawmaw and everyone else, had the audacity to make us and her dad the visitors in her life." Doesn’t that capture exactly how so many of us have felt?

Some of the media also picked up on my quotes. “’Many of the parents who are warring, are warring precisely because what the courts set up is a fight, where they say one parent will win and the other parent will lose.’ In contrast, Holstein says when the expectation is that the judge will opt for shared custody, most responsible parents think, ‘Well, I guess I have to sit down and figure out how we're going to make this work.’”

Missouri’s child custody law currently requires judges to only award “significant, but not necessarily equal” periods of time with a child. The proposed legislation, HB 2055 and SB 964, would move the requirement to “approximate and reasonably equal” time for “fit and willing” parents.

Missouri residents who want to help these bills pass should email Linda Reutzel.

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Shared Parenting Advances in Florida
By Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Founder and Acting Executive Director, National Parents Organization
Two years ago, an excellent alimony reform and shared parenting bill passed the Florida Legislature by a wide margin, but was then vetoed by Republican Governor Rick Scott (Digression: Ah, when will Republicans ever learn that their core constituency is men, including minority men, if they ever bothered to think about what minority men need that is consistent with conservative ideals, such as family and parenting — and when will Democrats ever learn that the first of them to stand up for men as well as women will be elected to office for life...)

But our movement keeps coming back. Now comes Florida SB 250 and its identical companion HB 553, bills that create a legal presumption that 50/50 time-sharing is in the best interest of the child. If judges would depart from the 50/50 presumption, they would have to provide a detailed written explanation. Strong stuff — too strong for passage in most states. But last week, the bill jumped an important hurdle when it was voted on favorably by the Rules Committee by a party-line vote of 7-4 (Republicans in favor).

The Senate bill is sponsored by Republican Tom Lee. Not surprisingly, Lee was “locked in a nearly two-year court dispute with his ex-wife to gain additional time with his children, as well as to lower his child-support payments,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. Our readers will note the little dig at the end of the sentence. Lee was quoted that with his bill, parents would “enter the courthouse on equal footing.” He went on to say that judges “do have blind spots; they have bias ... and courts need direction on how to apply public policy.”

The bill is softened by a laundry list of 22 factors that judges can consider that might cause them to abandon the 50/50 presumption.

The bill has roused up the usual opponents. Most flamboyant was nurse and child support activist Cynthia Wheeler, who was ejected from a hearing of the bill a few weeks ago before the Judiciary Committee. She called Lee a “liar,” and had to be hustled away from the microphone by security. (Note to our more passionate members: screaming at the legislators and getting ejected doesn’t help your cause.) It was also opposed by a few doctors, social workers, and state Senators from the other side of the aisle. As usual, the objections did not square up with the strong research evidence that most children do best with shared parenting.

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Maryland Activists, Time to Make Your Voices Heard
By Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Founder and Acting Executive Director, National Parents Organization
In Maryland, identical shared parenting bills SB0960 and HB1386 are coming up for their legislative hearings, and you should make every attempt to attend and to support these bills. The hearing schedule in Annapolis is:

SB0960 will be heard on Tuesday March 8th at 1pm. in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. 

HB1386 will be heard on Wednesday March 9th at 1pm. in the House Judiciary Committee.

The bills are called "Rebuttable Presumption of Joint Custody" entitled “Children’s Rights & Parental Rights — Shared Parenting Time Act for Family Equality”

David Smith is the lead Maryland activist promoting these bills. He writes, “Our time is now and well overdue to make this change happen for the children and families of the State of Maryland so we need your full support to get these bills passed which means coming out to testify and contacting these Maryland legislators to urge them to support SB0960/HB1386 and #SharedParentingforMaryland.  You can check out all the links to the bills, contact info to the legislators, etc. on our website plus donations are welcomed as we're trying to produce a strong marketing and media push for #SharedParentingforMaryland.” 

“Please spread the word and share our legislation info flyer and jpeg which is attached and available on our website.”

If you have questions or want to get involved, you can email David.

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Establish an Affiliation in Your State

National Parents Organization is working to build a strong affiliate in every state. What will it take to bring National Parents Organization to your state? Leadership. It takes a team of volunteers to organize in your state and to reach out to legislators, media, and other groups who will work with us to make shared parenting the norm.

If you are ready, please contact Ned Holstein, National Interim Executive Director. Together we can build an affiliate in your state.

 
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“National Parents Organization focuses on significant, practical changes to public policy and family law that will protect every child’s right to the full, loving involvement of fit parents.¬†National Parents Organization of Florida welcomes your involvement to affect the changes necessary to protect a quality parent-child relationship when parents live apart.”

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The opinions expressed herein are those of our guest authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Parents Organization or its Board of Directors.
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