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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="F & F member Jeff Oligny (right, near cameras) asks  popular presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (left) about family court reform at June 12 campaign event."][/caption] A contingent of Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign activists attended New Hampshire GOP events over the weekend and asked presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman about family court reform. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="F & F member Lorraine Corbeil (left), a grandmother, tells Pawlenty (right) 'all parents should have shared parenting.'"][/caption] F & F member Jeff Oligny asked former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a popular presidential candidate, about family court reform. Oligny, a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, told Pawlenty:
In today"s family law system, most non-custodial parents only get to spend a few days a month with their children. This is devastating for a lot of children who love both of their parents and want to spend time with them. How do you plan on fixing it?
Pawlenty replied:
[O]ne of the most significant determining factors of how children are going to do in school and more broadly in life is the degree of involvement and engagement of their parents in their lives. We want to encourage that to the fullest extent possible. And so the laws...as they relate to the relative balance between custodial and non-custodial [should reflect] that we want both parents engaged and productive...in their children"s lives.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="F & F activist/NH House member Jeff Oligny (left) with Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman (right) at June 10 event."][/caption] Pawlenty, who finished tied for 2nd in a recent New Hampshire GOP Straw Poll, was also questioned on the subject by F & F member Lorraine Corbeil, a grandmother. Corbeil told Pawlenty, "We feel that all parents should have shared parenting. Mothers and fathers," to which Pawlenty replied "Right," and noted "a lot of states have made some progress about that." He also explained:
"I know you [have to] make sure you have the best interest of the child, first. In some cases one of the parents has some other life issues that you have to put into the equation, too."
Pawlenty's response is reasonable--certainly we acknowledge that there are situations in which shared parenting is not appropriate, particularly if there's solid evidence that one of the parents is abusive or is unfit due to substance abuse problems, metal illness, etc. F & F activists also took family court reform to another Republican presidential hopeful, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (pictured). At a June 10, event Oligny asked Governor Huntsman:

I think we would all agree that children value their parents probably more than anything in the world. And unfortunately, non-custodial parents in this country only get a chance to see their children a few days a month. And this is devastating for a lot of children who love and want to spend time with their family...what do you think you might be able to do about it?

Huntsman replied:

I totally agree with your assessment on the need for children to be able to bond and interact with their parents. When they"re there, they do better. And when they are estranged, they do worse. There is something about a parent figure that is so critically important and indispensable in the lives of families.

I"m somewhat familiar with some cases that have played out in Utah where fathers in particular were estranged from their children. Unfortunately, caught up in the legal system, caught up in bureaucracy, we did what we could do. But I understand where you are coming from and if you have any specific solutions on how we ought to be looking at this issue, I"d love to hear them.

We Want YOU for Fathers and Families' Election Campaign 2012---Click Here to Volunteer Pawlenty and Huntsman certainly stopped short of specifically calling for family court reform, in contrast to  what Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Gary Johnson told F & F activists over the past couple weeks. However, we commend both of them for publicly recognizing the importance of two parent involvement in children lives after divorce or separation, and expressing interest in how to reform the system to promote it.

Gary Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, last week told F & F activists:
"Anything I could do on the federal level I would do, as president, to address [this] real inequality. I recognize it, having been Governor of New Mexico. It's a huge issue...the courts rule...usually [if not] always against the fathers...[in these rulings, fathers rights'] are obliterated, they're nonexistent. I recognize that...I'm open to ideas [on fixing it]."
At the  Portsmouth, New Hampshire Seacoast Republican Women's Breakfast with Newt Gingrich on May 26, F & F member Deanna Marchand asked presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:
Family courts generally allow fit loving fathers only a few days a month with their children. This is not only harmful to children since it"s so important level of involvement by both parents in their lives, but it"s also a terrible civil rights violation when the government dictates how much time a father or mother can spend with his or her children. What are your thoughts on family court reform?
In response, Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, criticized the family law system for its "extreme anti-male bias." Gingrich added that he was "in favor of fathers having rights...We live in an age that is very different than 50 years ago and I think that it is very often very important...that we have a much greater sensitivity that both sides, both parents, both have rights and have responsibilities..." To watch videos of the various candidates' remarks, visit http://www.youtube.com/fathersandfamilies. Join Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign! Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign is a nonpartisan grassroots campaign with the goal of injecting family court reform into the 2012 election campaign. Between now and New Hampshire's February 14, 2012 primary, our activists will be going to candidates' campaign stops, rallies, and townhall meetings, as well as calling in when candidates are interviewed on radio talk shows. We will be politely and persistently asking candidates questions about family court reform, with the goal of garnering media attention for our issues and getting candidates to go on the record with their views. Our central issue is simple--family courts harm children by routinely separating them from one of the two people they love most. How You Can Help No matter where you are, there are many ways you can help:
1) If you are in New England and can volunteer to make appearances at campaign stops and townhalls, please fill out our volunteer form here and type "Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign" at the beginning of the "How I Can Help" section. 2) We understand that many of you can"t participate due to geography or other limitations. We still want you to fill out our volunteer form here and participate by:
  • Helping us organize by making phone calls and doing web research.
  • Making calls to reporters, radio talk shows, and candidates' offices, writing letters and posting comments in response to our campaign Action Alerts. You will see these on our website at www.FathersandFamilies.org, our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/FathersandFamilies, and in our weekly ENewsletter.
  • Our New Hampshire efforts cost money---help defray our costs by giving at www.FathersandFamilies.org/give.
We Are Non-Partisan Fathers and Families is resolutely non-partisan and has and continues to work successfully with legislators on both sides of the aisle on legislation to promote family court reform. Our primary goal is to protect the loving bonds children share with both parents after divorce or separation, and we're happy to work with any legislators or political figures who share this goal. During the Fathers and Families Election Campaign 2012 we will be intervening at both Republican and Democratic events. However, there are many more Republican events than Democratic events because the Republican primary will be hotly contested, whereas the Democrats have an incumbent running.

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