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March 7, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

I should have known. For weeks now I’ve been wondering what opponents of shared parenting in Nebraska would come up with to justify opposition to LB 1000, Senator Russ Karpisek’s bill that encourages greater parenting time for fathers. Opponents of children having meaningful relationships with their fathers post-divorce have long made specious claims about a variety of issues they hoped would deflect the public’s attention from what they were really doing. And the tactic worked.

So they claimed fathers were likely to be abusive to children, and so couldn’t be trusted with custody. That of course overlooked the well-established fact that about twice the abuse and neglect of children is done by mothers acting alone as by fathers acting alone. That data come to us from the U.S. Administration for Children and Families that collects information from state child welfare agencies every year. The anti-dad crowd didn’t want us to know the facts about who commits child abuse. After all, if that information were to be used to deny a parent custody, it would be mothers watching their children walk away with their dads rather than the other way around.

They claimed fathers are likely to abuse mothers. But again their claims were contradicted by mountains of data showing women to be at least as likely to initiate domestic violence as men.

They claimed that mothers are naturally better caregivers to children than fathers, but no scientifically-gathered data bears that out. Indeed, data reported by Canadian researcher Paul Millar suggests the opposite may be true although the numbers aren’t definitive.

They claimed fathers only complain about their lack of parenting time post-divorce because they want to lower their child support payments. Again, there’s no evidence for that proposition, and a great deal that shows that (a) it’s mothers’ disinclination to receive less child support that drives their resistance to shared parenting (b) it’s mothers’ interference with fathers’ access to children that is one of the prime movers in dads’ child support arrearages and (c) fathers really do love their children and passionately desire a continued relationship with them even after Mom has filed for divorce.

They claimed shared parenting would exacerbate conflict between parents and therefore could only work in relationships in which the parents get along reasonably well. But again, reality intruded most rudely on the anti-dad crowd’s preferred narrative. It turns out that time and again, studies show shared parenting to ameliorate conflict between divorced parents over time. The simple fact is that the “winner-take-all” system we now have is what makes parental conflict so extreme and destructive. Shared parenting means each parent knows he/she will continue to have a real relationship with their kids following the parental split. That means they both can relax and co-parent. The social science makes this abundantly clear.

And, in Nebraska, we now have the report issued by the Office of the State Court Administrator that proves conclusively that essentially all those claims by shared parenting opponents don’t even come up in the vast majority of cases. Abuse of children and/or parents wasn’t even mentioned in some 94% of cases. In about the same percentage, each parent agreed that the other was fit. And conflict was found in only about 12% of the cases and that was true despite a very expansive definition of “conflict.”

Therefore, in Nebraska at least, even if all those other claims were true (e.g. that fathers are more likely than mothers to abuse children), they simply wouldn’t be an issue in the overwhelming majority of cases.

So what’s an anti-dad advocate to do? Social science has taken away every weapon they have, so what’s to be done? That’s the question I’ve been asking, and now I have my answer. And I’m embarrassed to say, I should have known it all along. The anti-dad crowd is continuing to do what it’s always done — make stuff up. Hey, admitting that fathers really are necessary to child well-being isn’t an option for them and lying and misleading have worked in the past, so why not just keep doing what you’re doing? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

That’s what the anti-father organization Voices for Children is doing in Nebraska in response to Sen. Karpisek’s bill, LB 1000. So when we turn to their web page on LB 1000, what’s the very first thing we see?

LB 1000: Mandate equal parenting time in all custody cases.

That’s three lies in eight words, so clearly they’re not even trying to get it right. “Mandate?” No, LB 1000 mandates nothing about parenting time. Nothing. It uses words like “favored” and “encouraged.”

“Equal” parenting time. Wrong again. LB 1000 calls for “maximizing” parenting time between fit parents. That means, if Mom spends a lot of time out of town on business, her “maximum” parenting time may be only 35% or more, or less. Judges maintain plenty of discretion about parenting time even when there’s no doubt about parental fitness.

“All” custody cases? Not even close. LB 1000 makes no effort to require judges to do anything regarding parenting time in “all” cases. Even a casual glance at the wording of the bill makes that altogether clear. Domestic abuse, child abuse, parental unfitness interference with the other parent’s access to the child and many other things can affect how much time a parent gets with his/her child under the bill.

With that inauspicious beginning it’s no surprise that Voices for Children’s written testimony before the Nebraska Senate Judiciary Committee is more of the same. The authors waste no time in getting it wrong. About LB 1000, they say, “it contains a de facto presumption of joint custody in all cases.” Of course that’s just false. A legal presumption takes a particular state of affairs as given and requires anyone who would alter it to produce sufficient evidence to do so. Not one word in LB 1000 establishes any presumption of anything. Not one word even suggests as much. Again, the bill says shared parenting is “favored” or “encouraged.” Imagine a criminal case in which the innocence of the accused was “favored” by the law and you understand how far the Voices for Children document misses the mark.

Moving right along, the testimony actually makes the claim that LB 1000 would “remove the best interests of children from a central position.” That’s so blatantly untrue it can only be called a lie. I admit that we have to read all the way to the 16th line of the bill to get to the first reference to “the best interests of the child,” and that may have been too taxing for whoever put together the Voices for Children document. But when it says “the best interests of the child shall be paramount,” and then goes on to say that the best interests of the child “shall be the standard” by which all issues relating to custody are decided, the bill doesn’t leave much to the imagination. The VC claim is outright false.

The third VC objection to LB 1000 is the old shibboleth domestic violence. Of course they couldn’t leave that out. Never mind that the study just completed shows that DV is even alleged in only about 5% of cases and substantiated in fewer still. But, when your arguments are as threadbare as VC’s, you have to drag out every one you have.

Now, anyone with the slightest knowledge of child custody laws knows they all contain very stringent requirements that anyone who engages in violence or child abuse is at best suspect when it comes to ordering custody. And LB 1000 is no exception. Needless to say, a bill that doesn’t require a judge to do much of anything regarding shared parenting certainly wouldn’t be hamstrung when it comes to claims of abuse. But Voices for Children’s got its story and it’s stickin’ to it.

Amusingly enough, the only thing they get right is their item number 2 that includes this little gem: “A presumption of equal parenting time will impact child support calculations...” Ah, now we know. The old claim that fathers just want access to their kids to cut their child support bills has been magically transformed into the truth — that mothers depend on child support payments and don’t want them reduced by giving fathers more time with their kids. That’s about as frank an admission that mothers don’t use child support money exclusively on the children as I’ve ever seen. After all, if you have the children less and receive proportionally less child support, your bank account shouldn’t be harmed because your expenses have gone down. Indeed, it should be helped because you’re no longer a full-time mother and can go out and get a job, even the meanest of which pays, in most cases, more than child support.

In perhaps the lamest dodge of all, the VC document actually says this:

Voices for Children continues to believe that Nebraska has a need for greater data collection and analysis, as well as comprehensive research before making significant changes to the Parenting Act.

Really? This is the state that just completed the only comprehensive study of child custody outcomes in the country, but according to VC, that’s not good enough. Then of course there’s the fifty years or so of social science on the value of fathers to children that too is apparently insufficient to meet their needs.

Nonsense. “More study” is the oldest dodge in the book. It’s the classic avoidance technique of every cowardly committee, politician, organization, etc. that knows change is needed but can’t face doing so. The last thing we need in Nebraska is more study. Voices for Children looked around and saw that something was gaining on them - the overwhelming acceptance of the facts that children need their fathers and the system of child custody denies them satisfaction of that need. Voices for Children is on the wrong side of history and it’s desperately trying to convince anyone who’ll listen that we can’t do what needs doing for the good of children.

As we’ve come to expect, their desperation shows in the false claims they make, the distorted figures, the outright lies. It’s as disgraceful a performance as we’ve seen in a long time. It’s the more disgraceful because its clear purpose is the abuse of children by separating them from the fathers who love and protect them.

For shame.

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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#childcustody, #parentingtime, #sharedparenting, #VoicesforChildren, #Nebraska, #childabuse, #domesticviolence, #LB1000

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