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July 19, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq. Member, National Board of Directors

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Child support is one of the most important problems facing children seeking to maintain meaningful relationships with both their parents following divorce or separation.  The intention behind child support is sensible – children need to be supported and, since both parents brought the child into the world, both should provide for it. But too many parents are ordered to pay amounts that they are too poor to pay, landing many of them in jail.

Those child support policies and their enforcement are in immediate need of drastic reform.  The recent study conducted by the Abell Foundation makes the point crystal clear (Abell Foundation, June, 2019).  The author of the study’s report, Vicky Turetsky is the former long-time commissioner of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.  Few people if any are more knowledgeable about the issues besetting our child support policies than she. 

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July 17, 2019 by Ginger Gentile, National Parents Organization Deputy Director

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“It was just easier not to see her.”

“They left it up to me if I wanted a relationship with my dad.”

“My dad hates my mom. My brother hates my mom, and I can’t see either of them.”

For my upcoming documentary, Erasing Family, I interviewed children who had a parent erased from their lives after divorce. These children were suffering from divided loyalties and torn between two parents. In talking with so many children who have lost contact with a loving, fit parent after divorce, a pattern emerged. So profound is their need for stability that they will decide not to talk to a parent for years, even decades, in an attempt to keep the peace and love of the parent they have. These children are desperate to avoid conflict, which caused them to run away from the “other” parent.

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NPO Study Prompts Ohio Counties to Update Parenting Time Rules

July 16, 2019 by Don Hubin, PhD

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When we think of success in promoting shared parenting, the image that often comes to mind is NPO’s stunning success in Kentucky. There, Matt Hale led a successful movement for a dramatic legislative change. In Ohio, we haven’t been able to duplicate this sort of shared parenting home run … yet! But a study that several of us undertook last year seems to be producing base hits.

In 2018, Frank Glandorf, Julie Carpenter-Hubin, and I reviewed the parenting time guidelines of each of Ohio’s county courts, grading these on the degree to which they promoted equal shared parenting. The results, presented in the NPO Ohio Parenting Time Report, were depressing but not surprising. Sixty-four of Ohio’s 88 counties were still locked into the “every-other-weekend-and-one-evening-a-week” model that dates from the Madmen era.

This approach to separated parenting has never been shown by scientific research to be beneficial to children and, even if there was a time when it made sense, we are far beyond that time. The work and parenting patterns of modern families are far different from those of the 1950s.

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July 15, 2019 by Dr. Linda Nielsen
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Based on the social science research summarized in my books for the past three decades, after parents separate, fathers’ relationships with their daughters are generally more damaged than their relationships with their sons.1, 2 This is not especially surprising since, when parents are living together, mothers generally have closer relationships with their daughters than with their sons. Mothers also generally disclose more personal information and seek advice and comfort more often from their daughters. Daughters are more likely than sons to hear damaging information about their dads from their moms and to end up being their mom’s confidante and “counselor”—a situation that generally gets worse and further weakens the father-daughter relationship after the parents separate.

Three situations that do the most damage to the father-daughter relationship are the mom’s refusal to share the physical custody of the children, her gatekeeping behaviors, and her negative reactions to the dad’s girlfriend or new wife. 1,2

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July 14, 2019
Kentucky

One year ago today, the first equal parenting law went into effect in Kentucky.  Happy anniversary equal parenting!

At the time of passage, the bill was the very picture of popularity.  It passed the Kentucky House by a vote of 81-2 and the Senate unanimously.
 
With a year’s worth of feedback, how’s equal parenting faring in the Bluegrass State?  Numerous sources inform me that it’s doing very well, thank you.

First, it continues to be overwhelmingly popular with everyday folks.  Legislators understood its popularity when they voted for the bill and that support continues.  According to one poll, six out of seven people (84%) support the new law.

But, in the case of shared parenting, simple popularity isn’t enough for a law to be worthwhile.  What’s been its effect on the process of divorce and custody cases?  After all, one of the promises of shared parenting is that it will make the process easier, quicker, less expensive and less stressful for all concerned.

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July 12, 2019
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Dr. Linda Nielsen is a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University. She’s also one of the world’s leading authorities on parenting time and child well-being. Her
recent article on fathers and their work/family balance is a must-read (IF Studies, 6/10/19). As always, the realities of how mothers and fathers treat the work/family balance militate in favor of equal parenting for fathers and mothers post-divorce.

One myth is that there is a large and unfair imbalance in how much childcare fathers and mothers provide. Another myth is that this supposedly huge childcare imbalance is mainly due to men’s selfish, sexist attitudes. The third myth is that fathers do not find enjoy spending time with their children as much as mothers do. In short, most dads, the story goes, are shiftless, selfish, sexist slackers.

How do those myths hold up to empirical scrutiny? Not at all. The science on fathers and children is replete with information showing fathers’ powerful connection to their children, children’s powerful connection to their dads and the need of both for Dad to have real, everyday parenting. Here’s one divorced mom who gets it (Thrive Global, 7/5/19).

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By Ginger Gentile, National Parents Organization Deputy Director

Are we doing our best to mirror the behavior we want to see in our own blended families?

One of the key tenets of the Shared Parenting Movement is that shared parenting is the best solution even when parents are not on good terms, as it will buffer children from conflict by giving them access to both parents as well as helping to reduce conflict by sending a message that we don’t fight over kids.

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July 9, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The move toward more realistic child support policies is gaining momentum. That system has been called “broken” too many times to count for reasons this informative article makes clear (Foundation for Economic Education, 6/28/19).

The Abell Foundation issued a report authored by the former commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Vicky Turetsky, who, during her time with the OCSE, worked tirelessly for reform.

The first problem with child support practices is that orders are often set at levels the obligor is unable to pay. That’s often because courts “impute income” to non-custodial parents. That is, they base their orders, not on actually earnings, but on what the court considers it possible for them to earn. The assumption being that parents commonly seek to lower their payments by reducing their employment. That of course may happen on occasion, but there’s essentially no evidence that it does so as a matter of course. After all, why would an adult damage his/her own standard of living just in order to damage that of the child he/she dearly loves?

The practice of setting support levels above what parents can pay became established in the 1980s due in part to an error in arithmetic by researcher Lenore Weitzman. She announced that her data showed women suffering a drop in their standard of living of 76% when they divorced. That alarmed other researchers whose numbers were nowhere near that. A decade later, Weitzman admitted that her data indicated a 24% decrease in living standards, but by then her research had formed the impetus for child support policies nationwide. State laws had been written to ameliorate a decrease in living standards that largely didn’t exist.

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National Parents Organization is excited to announce that Ginger Gentile has joined NPO as Deputy Executive Director. Ginger brings a broad range of talents, skills, and knowledge as well as a deep understanding of the problems that NPO is addressing.

A film director and documentary maker, Ginger is best known for her highly anticipated, forthcoming documentary film, Erasing Family, which examines the trauma children suffer when a loving parent is erased from their lives. You can watch the trailer for the film here and follow the film on Facebook here. When NPO saw the massive following that Gentile had amassed in advance of her film, and her advocacy about children deserving equal access to both loving parents, we knew that her talents and skills would help us widen our base of supporters, including young people adversely affected by the family court system. As the debut of her film drew nearer, we felt it was the ideal time to invite her to take her activism to the next level by joining NPO in a leadership role.

Welcome aboard, Ginger. Together we’re going to do great things for our children.

Don Hubin
Chair, Executive Committee, NPO

 
Making divorce and separation healthier for children is an issue close to my heart, as my work is driven by my own experience as a teenager as well as the countless families that reach out to me asking for help with their family court horror stories. A child losing access to a loving, fit parent after divorce is one of the largest public health crises of our day. But it is something that we don’t talk about. Our courts and legislatures are reluctant to create reforms that most people support, which is shared parenting and providing resources to reduce conflict.  

While I will continue to work on the distribution and impact campaign of Erasing Family, which will include creating resources to help kids “caught in the middle” and bringing the film to a wide audience, my role at NPO will allow me to create clear messaging for advocates working on the front lines of this issue. I hope that my role as Deputy Executive Director will bring new voices to the table and usher in an age of different groups working together with the shared mission of making divorce healthier for children.

Over half of the supporters of Erasing Family, and the stories we filmed, are mothers who cannot see their children. I look forward to working towards ensuring that children have the right to love both parents equally and ways to move the debate beyond moms and dads, to how to help the entire family heal.

I look forward to reaching out to not only members and supporters, but to different groups who are working on aligned issues. And of course, reaching out to those who disagree with NPO’s mission to find common ground. Together, we can raise a generation of children who will never be forced to choose, or have the choice made for them, of which parent gets to be a parent, and which gets to be at best a visitor, or at worse, completely erased.

Ginger Gentile
Deputy Executive Director, NPO

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June 16, 2019 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

“Happy Father’s Day!”

On the third Sunday in June, those words are welcomed by loving dads across the country. But for far too many of those dads, the annual celebration of fathers is a bitter reminder of what was taken from them and of the hole in their lives that cannot be filled.

I’m not talking about all fathers who are divorced or separated from their children’s mothers. Most of these fathers have been sidelined by our family courts that still see fathers primarily only as financial resources, not as loving and capable parents. But in most cases the standard parenting schedules, cruel as they are to children and fathers, at least allow the children to spend Father’s Day with their dads. These dads at least get to hear “Happy Father’s Day” from the children they love.

I’m talking about the dads who have been, either through court action or through court inaction, largely erased from their children’s lives.

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June 11, 2019 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As any involved parent knows, parenting is both a great joy, and a burden. Fortunately, the joys outweigh the burdens but the burdens are real.

I am reminded of that when I see the commercial now airing for the University of Phoenix titled “Discover Your Wings.” It’s about an apparently single mother who finds it difficult to pursue her education in traditional ways because of her responsibilities to her child. It’s hard to watch this commercial without thinking, “wouldn’t it be good if she had help in raising her child—help that would allow her some time to get the education she needs to advance her career?”

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June 7, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Eleven months ago, an Arizona court terminated the parental rights of a California father who, known to the AZ Department of Children and Families, the AZ Attorney General’s Office and at least one judge in the case, had been described by California authorities this way:
California’s child-welfare investigators, asked by DCS to check him out, gave the man a glowing report. His ex-wife called him “a good father, who cares and provides for his children.”  A California social worker wrote that it “is obvious that (the children) feel loved and cared for by their father and that he is very involved in their lives.” (AZ Central, 5/29/19)
The child’s mother didn’t want the father to have custody of her and neither did the state Department of Child Safety.  The scheme nearly worked.  It may yet.  For now though, an Arizona appellate court has overturned the termination of rights and excoriated caseworkers, the Attorney General’s Office and the judge.

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June 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Prior to Father’s Day, some of the commentary consisted of the usual denigration of fathers that’s long been a regular part of the day that’s supposed to honor them.  But most of the media and pop cultural treatment of fathers was positive.

This Pew Research article was nothing more than a recital of the current data on fathers and their effort to do both paid work and childcare.  I suppose that, if those data had cast doubt on fathers’ commitment, competency, etc., then the article would have reflected same.  But, since the information is essentially uniformly good news, the article joined many others that reflect positively on dads.

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June 14, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Imagine coming across an article headlined “Who’s Your Mommy? Don’t Ask a DNA Test.”  As you read it, it slowly dawns on you that the writer is suggesting decoupling the concept of motherhood from a woman’s biological relationship to her child.  After all, the article explains, plenty of kids have adoptive mothers, not biological ones; plenty have stepmothers too.  Some women go to prison or lose their parental rights due to drug or child abuse and often their kids go to foster parents.  And historically, countless mothers died, either in childbirth or long before their kids reached maturity.  So someone else had to mother them.

The point being that, since there are so many different ways in which children can come to be raised by women who have no biological connection to them, surely we should ignore that connection altogether.

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June 14, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a good article on domestic violence (Vancouver Sun, 6/7/19).  Apparently, Simon Fraser University criminologist, Alexandra Lysova, has been studying Canada’s General Social Survey that’s conducted every five years.

One of her main points – and one of the article’s – is that men too are victims of domestic violence.  Indeed, in Canada, they’re more often victims of DV than are women.  The latest figures show that 4.2% of men and 3.5% of women have been victimized in the past five years.  Now, to begin with, that’s good news.  Those figures have been steadily declining to the point that, on average, 0.7% of women and 0.8% of men have been victims of DV in the past year.  Canadians seem to be cleaning up their act at least as far as intimate partner violence goes.

A few points of interest in the data: when all physical violence, including sexual assault is considered, 2.8% of men and 1.7% of women report victimization.  As to severe violence with sexual abuse, 1.2% of men and 0.5% of women were victimized.

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June 10, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Last time I discussed this article by attorney Nancy Shannon and academic researcher Jennifer Harman (Lincoln Journal Star, 6/6/19).  The two excoriate maternal gatekeeping as a danger to children who need both parents actively involved in their lives.

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June 6, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I’ve reported before that the State of Texas seems bent on privatizing all or much of its child welfare services.  If Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in south Florida are any indication, Texas officials might want to think again (Miami New Times, 6/5/19).

The last two contracts let by those counties to a private provider of child welfare services have gone to a non-profit organization called Our Kids.  Things haven’t gone well.  The linked-to article cites the organization’s “record of poor service and rocky relationships with subcontractors, detailed in an examination conducted by DCF in 2017.”  That, combined with the recent suicides of two youths, apparently in Our Kids’ foster care, set officials seeking alternatives.

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June 4, 2019 by Patrick Bailey

Today's post was written by a guest blogger, Patrick Bailey.

In many jurisdictions, drug or alcohol addiction can have a significant impact on parental rights during or after divorce proceedings. Courts have denied both physical and legal custody, and even visitation rights, to individuals suffering from alcoholism or drug abuse. Some courts also take the history of drug abuse into account, impacting the parent's ability to have custody years into recovery.

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June 3, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Just four days ago, I reported that the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Families and Protective Services, Hank Whitman, was retiring after just three years on the job.  Yes, Whitman had done much-needed things for the agency, principally, greatly increased funding for CPS that’s overseen by DFPS.

But with all that extra funding, isn’t now Whitman’s chance to use that money to make needed improvements to how the state treats kids at risk of abuse or neglect?  Why obtain the money and then walk away before you have a real opportunity to use it?

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May 31, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

JP Morgan Chase and Company has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a sex discrimination suit filed by a father who was denied parental leave (MSN, 5/30/19).
The payout resolves a 2017 complaint brought by the American Civil Liberties Union alleging bias against Derek Rotondo, who had applied unsuccessfully for the 16-week parental leave benefit available to employees who are the “primary caregiver” of a new kid.
Unsurprisingly, Rotondo was considered by the company to not be his child’s primary caregiver. 
In the complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Rotondo said the company told him it started from the presumption that a child’s birth mother was the primary caregiver. And because his wife, a teacher, wasn’t incapacitated and had the summer off, he couldn’t qualify.
Given that most primary caregivers to children are mothers, the company’s policy seems to have blatantly discriminated against fathers and in favor of mothers.  Indeed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled accordingly.

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May 30, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Just three years after his appointment, Hank Whitman is stepping down as Texas’ Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services (Texas Tribune, 5/28/19).  The DFPS oversees Child Protective Services in the state.

Whitman’s appointment raised eyebrows back in April of 2016 because the man has a law-enforcement background with the Texas Rangers.  What that had to do with children’s welfare, the foster care system, cases-to-caseworkers ratios, etc. few people could figure out, myself included.  Still, on the face of it at least, Whitman’s done what was needed.  My guess is that he’s happy to be returning to law enforcement, but today, three years later, CPS is in much better shape than it was when he arrived.

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May 28, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

We say that we want children to have financial support.  They need it, after all, and if an adult makes the decision to bring a child into the world, he/she should be obliged to provide what’s necessary to give it a full, healthy life.  When parents divorce, neither of them magically loses that obligation. 

Fair enough.

But if we do want children to be supported financially, why do we make it so hard on non-custodial parents to do so?  Why don’t we, for example, order equal parenting in the great majority of divorce and custody cases?  That would mean each parent could simply bear the costs of caring for the child when little Andy or Jenny is with them, plus half of the non-everyday expenses.  In short, most child support orders would simply become moot and a huge area of conflict between parents would vanish.

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May 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In his paper written for publication in a hard-copy book to be published by the Oxford University Press in October, William Fabricius goes on to other considerations that militate in favor of a presumption of equal parenting to be written into family law.

He points out that, whatever our culture may have favored 50 years ago, it now supports children having as much time as possible with each parent following divorce.  In that, We the People once again demonstrate ourselves to be smarter and more humane than elites who govern- and not occasionally decide what’s good for - us.  I of course have reported many times on the increasing number and variety of surveys demonstrating popular support for equal parenting.

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This continues from yesterday my discussion of Dr. William Fabricius’ paper “Equal Parenting Time: The Case for a Legal Presumption,” that will be published in hard copy in October of this year in the Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law, edited by J.G. Dwyer and published by Oxford University Press.

Is there a causal effect of equal parenting on increased child well-being or are the 60+ studies finding better outcomes for children with equal parenting merely correlational?  Dr. Fabricius finds that equal parenting tends to cause those improved outcomes.

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