Nebraska and Josh Levs on the Diane Rehm Show

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June 30, 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.
Nebraska, Legislators Blame Courts and Courts Blame Legislators for Unequal Parenting
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Is the worm starting to turn in Nebraska? All of a sudden it appears that the Legislature may be pointing the finger of blame at the courts and the courts are pointing it right back.

The question arises from a couple of adoption cases that the Nebraska Supreme Court decided on June 24th. The exact nature of the companion cases is too complicated to go into here, but the high points are these:

A woman had a child in Ohio. She and her paramour signed an acknowledgement of paternity that, under Ohio law, resulted in his being legally established as the child’s father. The two lived together for a while and the man cared for the child. Eventually the mother took the child to Nebraska and placed her for adoption. The man objected saying that, under Ohio law, since he was officially the child’s father, his consent to the adoption was required. The Nebraska court ignored its obligation to give full faith and credit to Ohio law and the results of that law in the given case. The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that was error, so the man’s consent to the adoption was required.

Again, the two cases are far more detailed, intricate and convoluted than the above description indicates, but what’s most noteworthy comes at the very end of one of them. As quoted in this article, the Supreme Court wrote (Omaha World Herald, 6/25/16),
“We are sympathetic to the heartache that undoing these errors will cause the parties after this much time,” Justice William Connolly wrote. “This situation is partially the result of Nebraska’s statutes that encourage biological mothers to minimize the rights of legal fathers.”
Indeed they do.

But just a year and a half ago, legislators were criticizing the judiciary (Omaha World Herald, 1/10/14).
Noncustodial parents in Nebraska get an average of five days per month with their children, according to a 10-year analysis of judicial decisions in child custody and divorce cases.

The study, released Thursday by the State Court Administrator's Office, said judges are gradually moving toward custody arrangements that more equally divide parenting time.

“Glaciers move too,” said State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber, an advocate for equal parenting time.
Ouch! And Karpisek wasn’t the only one complaining.
The Legislature could pass a resolution calling for judges to more equally divide parenting time. Courts already have that authority under a 2007 revision of parenting law, [Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Brad] Ashford said.

“I think the Legislature has already spoken and we want more shared time, we want more equality,” he said.
Then there’s the fact that the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court was recently photographed palling around with Susie Buffett, daughter of Warren, whose foundation funds groups opposed to shared parenting and whose aunt Doris is a longtime domestic violence ideologue. When called out on the matter, the photo was deleted from the Court’s website.

In short, about the state of children’s rights to their fathers and fathers’ rights to their children in Nebraska, there looks to be some high-level finger pointing. That can only be a good thing. When the legislature and the judiciary agree that greater contact between fathers and children is necessary, that neither is receiving their due and that the only issue is who’s at fault for not providing it, can reform be far behind?

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Josh Levs on the Diane Rehm Show
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Father’s Day and the lead-up thereto were mostly positive across the various news media and pop culture. Oh, there were the usual anti-dad outliers, but more and more they’re exactly that - outliers.

The Diane Rehm Show has never been exactly a bastion of pro-father discourse, but shortly before Father’s Day, it featured Josh Levs and three other guests talking mostly about paid family leave from work, and inevitably other topics as well (Diane Rehm Show, 6/15/16). All in all, it was a strong endorsement of fathers playing larger roles in their children’s lives, particularly just after birth.

Levs is the author of the book All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses--And How We Can Fix It Together. What he most firmly grasps is the core message I’ve been sending for many years - that greater father involvement in children’s lives is good for everyone. It’s a win/win/win/win situation. Greater father involvement means only good things for kids, fathers and mothers. Why mothers? Because relieving them of some of the burden of childcare frees them to do other things with their time, like work more, earn more and save more. If the corporate grind doesn’t appeal to them, they can do other things - write the Great American Novel, meditate, read a book - with the time they aren’t with their kids.

Greater father involvement means fewer problems for kids and fewer social deficits for adults who were brought up by a single parent. So society would have fewer educational problems to deal with, less crime, less drug and alcohol abuse, fewer mental/emotional problems, etc.

And finally, with the reduction in all those problematic behaviors, public treasuries would find relief from the need to address them and their all-too-persistent rise.

The Diane Rehm show focused on parents being able to take time off after a child is born, and Levs made the vital point that those early weeks are hugely important to the bond between parents and kids.
It's incredible. You know, the more that you get in those earliest days, the more those bonds last. And we also have longitudinal studies that show that when a dad is home at the beginning of a child's life, it makes a difference throughout that kid's entire childhood. And it makes a difference in the balance of responsibilities and the extent the dad and the mom feel confident in playing all these different roles that you need to as a parent.
Right. Parents and children need an opportunity to establish those all-important bonds without which parenting is harder and children feel less secure. Of course a few weeks shortly after a child’s birth is far from the end of the story of what kids need in terms of contact with their parents, but the opportunity afforded by parental leave is certainly one part of what’s needed in a dual-earner parenting situation, which most are.

Thanks to Josh Levs for keeping himself in the spotlight and promoting the vital issues of both parents forming bonds with their children.

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