September 12, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Yesterday I noted the trend in Nebraska of elected officials embracing shared parenting at least in words. What state Senator Brad Ashford and others will do when the next shared parenting bill comes before them is anyone’s guess, but we’ll know soon enough. Chris Johnson’s op-ed I linked to said judges too are starting to express their view that some version of shared parenting is inevitable.
That’s in stark contrast to what we’ve come to understand as the status quo – an anti-dad establishment that takes for granted that there’ll be no reform, no improvement in children’s lives after their parents’ divorce, no increase in the time they can see their fathers.
So why the change? Why do we all of a sudden see elected officials singing from a different hymnal? I’ve speculated before that it might be because, with the publication of the results of Nebraska’s study of custody outcomes, there’s literally nothing more on which the anti-dad crowd can hang its hat. That study showed that things like domestic violence, child abuse and parental unfitness are now and have always been red herrings used by those opposed to equal parenting to convince legislators that fathers are dangerous incompetents. But the Nebraska study showed that those things aren’t even alleged in as many as 10% of cases, much less proved. So it doesn’t make much sense to craft public policy around abuse that occurs in vanishingly few instances.
Then of course there’s the theory that maybe elected officials are coming to understand the virtues of equal parenting and the many detriments of what Nebraska parents have now. As Johnson said in his op-ed, non-custodial parents see their kids about 17% of the time. That means that the kids effectively lose a real relationship with their dads. It also means mothers are saddled with 83% of the parenting, which impairs their ability to work, earn and save. Maybe the legislators noticed the connection between that and the fact that custodial single mothers are far more likely than anyone else in society to live in poverty.
But of course all that suggests that elected officials are motivated to do the right thing for kids, fathers and mothers, and that they simply didn’t know about the benefits of equal parenting or the down-sides to the current system. In short, it assumes those officials are rational, well-intended people who just needed to be educated in the social science on children’s well-being. In other words, it assumes those officials to be other than what we’ve come to know office-holders to in fact be, i.e. perennial seekers of re-election who are usually less interested in what’s right than in votes.
Now, for a long time now I’ve argued that those who espouse equal parenting need to stop asking and start demanding. After all, how long do we have to be right about what benefits kids, mothers, fathers and society generally and yet still fail to pass our bills before we get the message that we need a new approach? The fact is that every year state legislatures are in session, we go hat in hand, make our compassionate, fact-based arguments and every year we’re turned away empty handed. If being right were all it took, we’d have won by now, but we haven’t.
I’ve argued many times that the movement for equal parenting needs to start doing politics. By that I mean opposing those who oppose equal parenting and supporting those who favor it. That means all the usual nitty-gritty of electoral politics – phone-banking, block-walking, leafleting, etc. My guess is that it wouldn’t take much of that, targeted at vulnerable office-holders to turn the tide in our favor. Most office-holders want to do the right thing, but have to be made to see that doing so is also in their own interest. The message “We’ll attack you if you vote the wrong way, but go to bat for you if you vote with us,” is simple and easy for elected officials to understand. Most of those folks want an easy election, not a fight with an intense opposition, even a minority one. One or two successful campaigns and the rest of them will get the message.
Such, at any rate is my strong belief. Now, the National Parents Organization is a 501 (c)(3) organization and therefore cannot itself go to bat for or against any individual office holder or anyone seeking office. We’ve never done so and we never will. But that doesn’t mean others can’t go the electoral route, and, as it turns out, one organization in Nebraska is doing just that, as this article shows (Columbia Telegram, 9/5/14).
[Kids Have Rights Too,’s Jeremy] Barnhill said that shared custody of children is “few and far between” and that in Nebraska, 78 percent of the divorce cases end with the mothers getting full custody.
“If both parents are good parents, why shouldn’t that option exist?” he said.
When good parents are not able to have custody, he said, the children suffer along with the non-custodial parent, and long term relationships are disrupted.
The group is not advocating for equal time for all parents, he said, because there are many cases where one of the parents has been deemed unfit because of criminal activity, abuse or the use of drugs or alcohol.
But when both parents are deemed to be fit, a child needs both of them to be involved, Barnhill said.
“Our children deserve a life with both parents when both parents truly want to be involved,” the group’s mission statement reads. “Our kids are the most important part of our lives, they deserve to have the best, and that involves both parents giving it to them.”
Barnhill’s organization, Kids Have Rights Too, is attempting to oust one judge and another state senator due to their intransigent opposition to equal parenting. It may be that their efforts are bearing fruit before the election is even held. As I and Chris Johnson have already said, the anti-dad tune in Nebraska has changed and there must be a reason. Maybe a little good old fashioned fear of losing office has done the trick.
Whatever the case, the fight in Nebraska is continuing. Equal parenting forces are there to stay. We’ll see what happens next session.
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.
#sharedparenting, #electoralpolitics, #familycourts, #anti-fatherbias