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[caption id="attachment_15769" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Fathers and Families Board Chairman Ned Holstein, MD, MS testifying in favor of H02684."]sp-hearing-holstein-testify[/caption] Fathers and Families activists testified in favor of our shared parenting bill (H02684) last Wednesday. The bill, lead sponsored by Representative John Scibak, supports children and strengthens families by creating a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting in divorce cases, so that children can sustain their loving relationships with both parents. Fathers and Families Board Chairman Ned Holstein, MD, MS , was among those who testified in favor of H02684. Dr. Holstein said:
Our position is incredibly simple: we love our kids, we are fit parents, and we simply want to be allowed to help raise them... I also want to address the perception that legislation of this sort is controversial. Actually, there are few matters on which the public is in greater agreement than the idea that after divorce, joint physical custody should be the usual outcome if both parents are fit and there has been no domestic violence. In fact, in Massachusetts, we put exactly that question before 700,000 voters in a non-binding ballot question in 2004. This is about one-quarter of the Massachusetts electorate. We had terrific diversity of districts geographically, culturally and socioeconomically. What percentage would you guess agreed with shared parenting as the usual outcome:  86%, with very little variation from district to district. Recently, Prof Sanford Braver of Arizona State University surveyed jury-pool citizens and found similar results using formal tests of statistical significance. Just as we found at the ballot box, Braver also found that women support this just as much as men do. Braver summarized by writing, "Family lawmakers need to confront that equal custody enjoys genuinely great popularity among the citizenry … family lawmakers will also need to confront that current custody distributions are very unpopular, and contribute to (if not solely cause) the perception that the system is laden with bias in favor of mothers.' This shows that joint physical custody of children is a MAINSTREAM value. H02684 is middle-of-the-road. Often, people who support this sort of thing are portrayed as radical. On the contrary, it is those who OPPOSE this simple measure who are out of step with the heavy weight of public opinion.
Dr. Holstein's full testimony is below. To read Dr. Holstein's written testimony, click here. To read others' testimony, click here. To learn more about H02684, see our campaign page, click here.Dr. Holstein's Testimony in Favor of H02684 Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Madame Chair for the opportunity of testifying today in support of H02684, An Act Relative to Supporting Children and Parental Custody.'  This bill has been sponsored by Representative John Scibak, to whom we express our deepest appreciation, and 46 co-sponsors.  Fathers and Families also supports three other shared parenting bills before the committee today, H01306, SB00659 and SB00847. Before speaking about shared parenting, I want to express Fathers and Families" support for alimony reform as per S00665. This bill"s time has come, and I am glad to see the fruits of the labors of members of the Committee and of the Task Force. Steve Hitner said that it takes six years to pass a bill. By that measure, shared parenting is overdue. We seem to be about to take care of the money; now let"s take care of the kids. Our position is incredibly simple: we love our kids, we are fit parents, and we simply want to be allowed to help raise them. The advantages of shared parenting for children are many. I can address only a few of them here. Our written testimony goes into more detail. 1)    It diminishes toxic parental conflict. Instead of setting parents up for a nasty battle to see who will win the children, it says to parents, "Relax, you will both be parents, nobody will be the loser, now let"s hammer out something that works for your children.' 2)    Joint physical custody is the most powerful tool in increasing voluntary child support compliance. 3)    Children do better in school with greater involvement of their non-custodial fathers, according to research by Christine Nord for the US Department of Education. 4)    Greater involvement of non-custodial fathers leads to less delinquency of all types among inner-city, minority children, according to research by Professor Rebekah Coley at Boston College. This was echoed by Professor Judy Dunn at King"s College, London, who found fewer behavioral problems, especially aggression, among children with more contact with their separated fathers. 5)    Greater father-involvement leads to less bullying behavior, according to very recent research at Vanderbilt University. 6)    Children overwhelmingly desire roughly equal parenting despite the fact that this means going back and forth between two homes. Linda Nielsen, Professor of Women"s Studies at Wake Forest University, writes that there are 16 studies showing that this is what children want, and herself endorses it. I also want to address the perception that legislation of this sort is controversial. Actually, there are few matters on which the public is in greater agreement than the idea that after divorce, joint physical custody should be the usual outcome if both parents are fit and there has been no domestic violence. In fact, in Massachusetts, we put exactly that question before 700,000 voters in a non-binding ballot question in 2004. This is about one-quarter of the Massachusetts electorate. We had terrific diversity of districts geographically, culturally and socioeconomically. What percentage would you guess agreed with shared parenting as the usual outcome:  86%, with very little variation from district to district. Recently, Prof Sanford Braver of Arizona State University surveyed jury-pool citizens and found similar results using formal tests of statistical significance. Just as we found at the ballot box, Braver also found that women support this just as much as men do. Braver summarized by writing, "Family lawmakers need to confront that equal custody enjoys genuinely great popularity among the citizenry … family lawmakers will also need to confront that current custody distributions are very unpopular, and contribute to (if not solely cause) the perception that the system is laden with bias in favor of mothers.' This shows that joint physical custody of children is a MAINSTREAM value. H02684 is middle-of-the-road. Often, people who support this sort of thing are portrayed as radical. On the contrary, it is those who OPPOSE this simple measure who are out of step with the heavy weight of public opinion. You will hear many myths about our shared parenting bill.  When you hear them, keep in mind that H02684 •    Does NOT limit judicial discretion •    Does NOT discard the best interest of the child standard. •    Does NOT mandate 50/50 parenting or any other specific parenting schedule •    Does NOT impose shared parenting when parents live far apart or there are other practical problems •    Does NOT create a one-size-fits-all straightjacket •    Does NOT increase parental conflict or re-litigation; H02684 actually will DECREASE these problems •    Does NOT impose shared parenting where parental conflict is intractable •    Does NOT diminish statutory protections against domestic violence •    Does NOT increase transitions from house to house – when the children transfer, they just stay longer •    Does NOT discard the best interest of the child standard •    Does NOT change the determination of child support – it would still be determined by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines •    Is NOT anti-woman, in fact is supported by a large majority of women If people tell you otherwise about H02684 they are misrepresenting our bill, or haven"t read it. It"s time to do something about this problem. If you don"t like our bill, once again I ask you to work with us to improve it. Thank you once again for the opportunity of testifying in support of H02684.

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