As readers of this blog know, thanks to the National Parents Organization and the redoubtable Matt Hale, Kentucky became the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking world to enact a presumption of equal parenting into law. The new statute becomes effective on July 1. As if that weren’t enough of a landmark, it’s beginning to look like the states around Kentucky may be influenced by its success.
Certainly the news media in those states have taken note. In Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, New York, Indiana and Minnesota at least, print and broadcast media have picked up on the Kentucky story. By now, the people of those states and their elected representatives know that another state has taken the plunge and decided to actually do what’s best for kids. Kentucky now walks the walk instead of just talking the talk.
The legislative session in Missouri is over and this year, unlike last year, the National Parents Organization was unable to pass its shared parenting bill, HB 1667. That wasn’t because HB 1667 wasn’t popular with legislators, it was. Indeed, it passed both its House committee and the House of Representatives itself. It was then approved by the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children. And we were reliably told that it had majority backing of the full Senate.
But it never reached the Senate floor. Why? Because in the final days of the session, a lone senator, Jill Schupp, threatened to filibuster until HB 1667 couldn’t be voted on. That’s right, against a majority of House members and a majority of Senate members, Jill Schupp decided to play the role of governor and veto the bill.
The third and final wave of objections to shared parenting identified by Prof. Edward Kruk is that, while shared parenting has been demonstrated to be the best post-divorce arrangement for kids in all but a small percentage of cases, we shouldn’t enact it as a presumption in the law on custody. Those advancing this objection pretend that the existing standard - the best interests of children - is (a) better for kids and (b) in opposition to shared parenting. Both pretenses are just that.
Included in that objection is the notion that judges must maintain discretion in deciding custody and parenting time because all cases are different.
Kruk buries all those claims under an avalanche of facts and common sense.
First, the best interests of the child standard is vague and indeterminate, as children’s best interests are largely undefined, lack legal consensus, and are based on speculation about future conduct. The absence of a clear definition of best interests renders the standard unworkable. Second, the standard gives judges unfettered discretion in decision making, based on their idiosyncratic biases, in an area around which they have little or no training or expertise, and is thus subject to judicial error. This discretion can result in unpredictable and inconsistent outcomes. Third, decisions based on the best interests of the child reflect a sole custody presumption and judicial bias; judges might hold stereotyped or outdated ideas about fathers’ and mothers’ roles that bias their decisions. Fourth, the discretionary best interests of the child standard sustains, intensifies, and creates conflict, and fuels litigation because of the incentive of a winner-takes-all context where such an undefined standard provides a context of anything goes. Fifth, the best interests of the child standard makes the court dependent on custody evaluations lacking an empirical foundation, as the scientific basis for child custody evaluation is hotly contested and the qualifications for becoming an expert are nebulous at best. Sixth, the views of children and parents regarding the best interests of the child, which focus on children’s needs and parents’ responsibilities to those needs, are radically different to the views of the judiciary, which are deficit-based. Seventh, with two adequate parents, the court has no basis in law or psychology for distinguishing one parent as “primary” over the other. Finally, despite the rhetoric of children’s best interests, children’s interests are largely unrepresented in the court proceedings, as a custody contest instead pits the rights of mothers against the rights of fathers (Brown, 2014; Kruk, 2013).
The second wave of arguments against shared parenting claims that it’s inappropriate in high-conflict divorces. It at one point argued that evidence supporting shared parenting merely cherry-picked parents who got along well anyway and could therefore make joint care work. The latter was disproven when parents with various levels of conflict were compared both in and out of shared parenting arrangements. The former has also been found to be unsupported by empirical evidence. Prof. Kruk summarizes:
There is now strong empirical evidence, however, that children can benefit from shared parenting even when their parents do not have low-conflict, cooperative relationships (Fabricius, Sokol, Diaz, & Braver, 2016; Nielsen, 2017). Shared parenting might create an incentive for parental cooperation.
Prof. Kruk’s article in the Special Issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage first details and then destroys the three waves of arguments against shared parenting. At first, opponents simply denigrated fathers as uninterested in their children and only proponents of shared care because they wanted to reduce their child support obligations. The problem with both was that subsequent research demonstrated that neither was true. In fact, fathers most highly valued their relationships with their children, refuting the radical feminist narrative.
After those efforts failed, Kruk explains, opposition got serious, i.e. it attempted to recruit science to its anti-dad cause. (Let me be clear that it was precisely anti-father. Essentially everyone at the time understood that, overwhelmingly, mothers got sole or primary custody of children post-divorce. Therefore, any attempt at sharing care was perceived as reducing mothers’ time with their children and increasing father’s.)
May 11, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Prof. Edward Kruk’s article in the Special Issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage should be required reading for legislators, family court judges, custody evaluators, social workers, psychologists and everyone else involved in child custody decision-making. Kruk reviews the long history of resistance to the idea of shared parenting and the burgeoning science refuting that resistance. He leaves the reader with the feeling that (a) that resistance has never been particularly scrupulous and (b) it no longer has even a pretense of validity.
The article provides a historical perspective on the battle for shared parenting that’s much-needed today.
National Parents Organization is grateful for the commitment, hard work and dedication of its numerous volunteers, donors, Board members and staff to the goals of our organization. Without you, we would not have succeeded in making the considerable gains we have in recent months in reforming state legislation to ensure shared parenting for our children.
We were particularly proud to learn last week that one of our volunteer Affiliate Chairs, Christian Paasch, was also recognized by the U.S. Air Force for his volunteerism by being awarded the 2018 Air Force Spirit of Service Award. Please see the write-up below. A hearty ‘Congratulations and Thank-you’ to Christian for all you do for NPO!
“Mr. Christian Paasch champions the highest standard of community service. His unwavering commitment to children and parental rights, and ensuring the well-being of children, to include military families, in the Commonwealth of Virginia is unsurpassed. Over the last three years, Christian has not only volunteered thousands of hours to form and lead a statewide, non-profit organization aimed at furthering “shared parenting” but also sponsored legislation in the Commonwealth of Virginia for shared parenting reform.
May 10, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Not long ago, I did a piece on the special issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage that deals with the latest science on a number of issues affecting child custody and parenting time. The issue should be required reading for all family court judges and state legislators who are considering bills to reform family courts.
Today’s blog will simply summarize the various articles in the issue and use Prof. Linda Nielsen’s preface to do so.
May 9, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here’s a judge who needs to find another job (ABA Journal, 5/8/18). From here she looks to be part of a system that prefers foster care and adoption to parental care, pretty much regardless of how fit and loving the parents are.
N.M. was an infant when her parents took her to her pediatrician because she was “fussy.” The doctor thought she had an ear infection, gave the parents antibiotics and let them go. The fussiness got worse, so they returned to the doctor who ordered a chest X-ray that revealed minor fractures of two ribs.
Due to your efforts over the past two months, we are highly optimistic that our reform of the custody law will pass in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Now we must turn our attention to the Senate. Your phone calls and visits to Massachusetts State Senators are what can put it over the top.
So you MUST come to our meeting on this Sunday evening, May 13, at 6:30 PM in Weston, just off Route 128. This will be a succinct, short, strictly-business meeting to make shared parenting the law in Massachusetts. Yes, it is Mother’s Day, and yes, there could be a playoff game; if you decide these are more important than our kids, don’t come to us complaining the next time you are humiliated in court.
At this meeting, we will review with you the current status of this bill, why we can get it passed, what we have to do, and the timetable for action over the next month. In the end, we WILL get this bill passed!
We will then need you to contact your Senators to support the bill. We will explain how to do this, and give you any talking points or materials you may need. You do not need to be an expert on lobbying, the law or on child development. You just have to be a person who understands that kids love both parents and who is willing to tell this to a Senator.
If we don’t do this, nobody will! If we don’t do this, we are abandoning the kids of Massachusetts! If we don’t do this, we let special interests triumph! If we don’t do this, we deserve what we get!
Directions and details are below.
With enthusiasm and optimism,
Chair of the Board
National Parents Organization
617 795-2238 (o)
Meeting Location and Directions
First Parish Church, Weston
Sunday evening, May 13, 2018 6:30 pm
349 Boston Post Road, Weston, MA 02493. It is the stone church in the center of town where Boston Post Road, School Street and Church Street meet.
1. Get on Route 128 (also Interstate 95).
2. Leave at Route 20, exit 26, in Waltham (one exit north of Mass Pike).
3. Turn West, toward Weston.
4. At the second traffic light, 1.5 miles, turn right onto School Street.
5. In one block School Street ends at Boston Post Road.
6. First Parish Church is the stone building in front of you.
7. For events, turn right, then immediately left in the Church parking lot.
Parking is available in the church parking lot. The parlor is in the main building and accessible from the front door.
May 7, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Sometimes it feels like it would be easy just to throw up my hands at how the news media deal with issues relating to parents and children. Here’s a prime example (Globe and Mail, 5/2/18).
It’s an advice column written by one David Eddie. His correspondent is a woman who’s become pregnant by a guy she describes as a “club-going partier.” He’s 25 years old. Being a “club-going partier,” he wants nothing to do with the child and asked her to have an abortion. She says nothing about whether she intends to terminate the pregnancy, but we assume she doesn’t. Oddly, she’s written to Eddie to ask what she should do.
May 6, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
There’s an old saying among attorneys that “bad facts make bad law.” The same is true of journalism. All too often, the press seizes on the latest scandal to demand dramatic changes in public policy without stopping to consider whether one bad case means the whole system must be scrapped.
Such is the case here (Lexington Herald Leader, 5/4/18). The article is about changes made recently to Kentucky law regarding foster care. Amazingly, the piece begins, not with a headline, but with what looks like a meme from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, i.e. the state’s child welfare agency. The meme says “There are 9034 Kentucky children in state care, up from 7,917 a year ago. They were removed from their homes for their own protection.”
May 4, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare put a target on Doug Bressie’s back. When caseworker Stacy White allegedly abused his younger child, Oscar, who was then just eight, Bressie fought back, criticizing White’s behavior. Apparently, White didn’t like that. When his oldest child, Dusty, had to go to the hospital for a viral infection, amazingly, White showed up.
“I was horrified,” Bressie wrote in an affidavit. “White absolutely gloated when she walked into the room. I remember thinking … she must be enjoying herself.”
May 3, 2018 by Will Mitchell, Chair, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Kansas
The state of Kansas’ new Child Support Evaders program functions as a “most wanted″ of those who are behind on their child support payments: the names and faces of parents deemed the worst offenders have their faces and names posted online, complete with the amount they owe, their last known location and contact information.
This is a solution for families, says Gov. Jeff Colyer. But look closer, and the opposite is true — this program hurts, not helps, Kansas families.
May 3, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I often comment on child protective agencies being underfunded and understaffed, resulting in poor casework. This is not one of those times. No, this story isn’t about a tragic lack of resources resulting in abused children (Coeur d’Alene Press, 5/1/18). It’s about the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare apparently having all the resources it needed and still abusing three children and their entirely fit father.
Did Doug Bressie make a mistake? He did. His mistake was in trying to get caseworkers to treat his youngest child, Oscar, respectfully. Doing so looks to have put a target on Bressie’s back. He spent the next four years learning the awesome power wielded by child welfare agencies. Theirs is the power to take children from parents, one that every parent dreads.
May 2, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here’s the final article in Terry Brennan’s excellent series on fatherlessness (Daily Caller, 4/30/18). This one’s about the politics of fatherlessness. Fatherlessness is, to a great extent a matter of public policy and, public policy being mostly a function of the political system, fatherlessness is a political phenomenon.
Brennan has some pretty pithy quotations to offer.
On fatherhood, Democrats pursue a laissez-faire policy that there are different types of families and citizens should marry who they want or not marry at all. When campaigning, both Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton called single mothers “heroines”. Secretary Clinton said:
April 30, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here, Naomi Schaefer Riley of the American Enterprise Institute, takes on the issue of child welfare agencies and how they disserve children, the very people they exist to benefit (AEI, 4/20/18). There can’t be too much criticism of those agencies. State CPS do, on balance, a pretty poor job of protecting or providing needed services to kids. But sadly, Riley’s take on her topic is extremely limited and one-dimensional.
It appears in her first sentence and doesn’t get much further.
Why do our courts make decisions about the fate of children on a timeline designed for adults?
April 29, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The war among social scientists over shared parenting took on a new front recently with the publication of a special issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage. Its topic is the latest research on a number of aspects of shared parenting. It was edited by Dr. Linda Nielsen and includes articles by such luminaries as Richard Warshak, Michael Lamb, Sanford Braver, William Fabricius, Malin Bergstrom and others.
It is a powerful salvo in the aforementioned war. The issue is another attempt to (a) describe the social science to date on shared parenting and, as any such attempt must also do, (b) clamp down on the disinformation coming from the few remaining anti-shared parenting advocates. Dr. Nielsen wrote a preface to the issue that describes in some detail examples of the non-scientific and in some cases non-ethical contributions to the debate on shared parenting made by those advocates.
April 27, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
History was made yesterday.The National Parents Organization helped make it.Kentucky became the first political entity inthe history of the English-speaking world to establish a legal presumption ofequal parenting post-divorce.From nowon, all parents who divorce in the state will know that, absent unfitness, ahistory of abuse or domestic violence, they are entitled to equal parentingtime with their children.
Let me say it again:this is a first.It is a landmarkin the hard-fought history of family court reform.Ten years from now, 50 years from now, 100years from now, people will look back on April 26th as the day that turned thetide toward children’s well-being, greater equality, a less acrimonious legalsystem and a healthier society.
April 27, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Professor Richard Warshak has a new and thoughtful post on his Facebook page in celebration of Parental Alienation Awareness Day. He does what so many have found the need to do – address the false claims of those who seek to convince others that parental alienation either doesn’t exist or is a sinister ruse by abusive fathers to deny to “protective” mothers the custody of their children.
Warshak lists the five most common claims of PA deniers.
April 26, 2018
Thanks to Kentucky legislators and Gov. Bevin, Kentucky now leads the nation in protecting children’s best interests when parents divorce or separate. The historic moment arrived on Thursday, April 26, when Gov. Matt Bevin signed HB528, a bill stating equal parenting time is best for children.
“April 26 goes down in history as the day Kentucky became the first true shared parenting state in the United States. Kentucky, more than any other state, can now say it does everything it can to give children two loving parents after divorce – just as our children deserve,” said Matt Hale, Chair of National Parents Organization in Kentucky, who led the reform effort for five years. “Research overwhelmingly shows children want and need both parents after separation. Our state lawmakers responded by aligning state laws with the research. This represents a common sense yet unprecedented move. Our lawmakers and primary sponsors Jason Petrie and Kevin Bratcher should be commended.”
The law passed the Kentucky House and Senate before Gov. Bevin signed it – the law takes effect later today.”
“Keep your eye on Missouri shared parenting HB1667! National Parents Organization’s MO Affiliate Chair, Linda Reutzel, and her members spearheaded the effort to introduce this issue to Rep. Kathy Swan back in 2014, and continued their campaign to educate the public and legislatures about the need for shared parenting and the need to pass this important bill. We applaud Rep. Swan for her support of HB 1667. NPO will continue to watch as this moves up to the Governor’s Office for final signature.”
JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — A bill establishing the presumption that equal parenting time in custody arrangements is in the best interest of the child is moving through the Missouri legislature.
HB 1667, sponsored by Rep. Kathryn Swan, was heard in the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children on Wednesday morning. The House approved the bill 137-7 at the beginning of April.
The legislation is a follow-up to an “equal parenting bill,” HB 1550, that become law in 2016 that supporters say is not being properly enforced in some courts.
April 26, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
And who better than Warren Farrell to explain why fatherlessness is so important (Daily Caller, 4/24/18)? Farrell of course is the man who’s been sounding the alarm about that very topic for longer than anyone else on the planet. Farrell's piece comes within the context of Terry Brennan's DC series on fatherlessness.
It just so happens that Farrell’s just published a book entitled The Boy Crisis, so his information is nothing if not up to date.
April 25, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Today is Parental Alienation Awareness Day. As such, it’s with great pleasure that I read this article by two New Jersey family lawyers about PA (New Jersey Law Journal, 4/23/18). The two grasp the fact and nature of parental alienation, understand that it constitutes a virulent form of child abuse and urge their colleagues and judges to take action to stop it when they first see it happening. Well done, Stephen P. Haller and Jennie L. Osborne.
From their position as family law practitioners, Haller and Osborne have seen how pervasive efforts to alienate children have become.