October 13, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The anti-dad crowd has pretty much stopped even pretending to have any serious arguments against shared parenting.They’re down to utterly threadbare claims long debunked by social science and their willingness to use them, despite their invalidity, says all we need to know about those activists who will seemingly say anything to keep fathers out of kids’ lives.One of the latest such screeds was penned by one Lloyd Omdahl, former Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota, about which I wrote here.
Now, admittedly Omdahl’s piece was worse than most, and that’s saying a lot.The crux of his argument was that, in the throes of a messy divorce, the parents don’t know what’s good for their kids and judges do.That’s because family court judges are “objective,” you understand.That particular piece of nonsense is almost too absurd to mention, much less respond to.The idea that family court judges carry no bias into their courtrooms is belied by essentially every known fact about custody outcomes plus countless personal stories, plus, in one study, the admissions of the judges themselves.I mean, when we see a Michigan judge saying in open court that he’s really got to stop reflexively giving custody to mothers, you know there’s pro-mother/anti-father bias afoot.When we see a Wyoming judge admitting on the record that the mother has alienated the child, that the father is a good and loving parent, but that Mom gets custody, it doesn’t take much imagination to know what’s going on.
Of course those are just anecdotes, but the social science on custody outcomes is even more telling.What does Omdahl make of Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen’s finding that mothers are far more likely than fathers to file for divorce because, in Brinig’s words, the factor that “swamps all the others” is that mothers know they’ll get custody?How does he figure that only 17% of all divorced fathers are worthy of seeing their children more than the 14% - 20% of the time specified by standard visitation orders?Literally no social science finds that, or anything even close to it, about fathers’ parental qualifications, but that’s what courts order.To Omdahl, that can’t possibly indicate bias on the part of courts, but of course he neglected to explain how it happens without bias.
But enough of the anti-dad crowd.Let’s take a look at what a good article on child custody can look like.And if you like, you can compare and contrast it to the weak tea offered up by Omdahl.The National Parents Organization’s own Ned Holstein had an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun last Wednesday and it’s striking in a number of ways.For example, it uses facts not fantasies, logic not wishful thinking.What a concept. Here it is (Baltimore Sun, 10/8/14).
In 2014, three separate and independent groups of experts reviewed decades of child development research. They found that after parents separate or divorce, children do much better with shared parenting — joint custody — on multiple measures of wellbeing than with single parenting. Yet in more than eight out of 10 custody cases today, one parent (usually the mother) is awarded sole guardianship.
And it’s not just those groups, important as they are.Dr. Edward Kruk of the University of British Columbia published what is now the most authoritative single work on shared parenting, The Equal Parenting Presumption.In it he lays to waste all arguments against shared parenting.As Holstein says, shared parenting benefits kids, but it also benefits parents – both custodial and non-custodial ones alike.And it benefits society by drastically cutting down on the many personal and social deficits associated with sole or primary custody.Holstein names a few important ones.
The negative impact on our children is dramatic. For instance, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:
- 63 percent of teen suicides,
- 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions,
- 71 percent of high school dropouts,
- 75 percent of children in chemical abuse centers,
- 85 percent of those in prison,
- 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders
- And 90 percent of homeless and runaway children.
It’s the funniest thing; Omdahl and the others who inveigh against children having a relationship with both parents post-divorce never get around to mentioning all the many problems their way of doing things results in.Nor do they pretend that their preferred system of sole or primary custody improves matters for kids.That’s for the obvious reason that there’s no reliable social science for the proposition that sole or primary custody helps children.Indeed, as Canadian researcher Paul Millar has pointed out, there is no scientific evidence that sole or primary maternal custody is good for children and much that it’s not.
Last year's formation of Gov. O'Malley's Commission on Child Custody Decision Making is a promising start to tackling the problem. However, much work remains to ensure that more children experience the benefits of shared parenting, which include fewer behavioral and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, better family relations and better school performance than children in sole custody arrangements, according to 2002 Maryland research. Psychologist Robert Bauserman, then of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, conducted a meta-analysis of 33 studies between 1982 to 1999 that examined 1,846 sole-custody and 814 joint-custody children and found that children in joint custody arrangements were as well adjusted as intact family children on the same measures.
Let me know the next time you see one of the anti-dad crowd cite anything like that in support of the current system.I won’t hold my breath because you won’t be doing so.You won’t be doing so because there is no such social science.None.
But that’s not all.Shared parenting is also better for parents than the current system that consigns one to the status of visitor and the other to full-time parent.That’s an emotional blow to non-custodial parents who often have spent years embracing the role of parent, only to be told by a judge that they’re now just a wallet.And it’s a financial blow to the custodial parent who, with 24/7 parenting duties has difficulty working, earning and saving.Divorce courts are one big reason over 40% single mothers with custody of children live in poverty.But, as with children’s welfare, don’t take my word for it, take that of social scientists who study the phenomenon.
Shared parenting is also better for parents. The claim is often made that joint custody exposes children to ongoing parental conflict. In fact, the studies in Mr. Bauserman's review found lower levels of conflict with shared parenting, possibly by disposing of the winner-loser feelings that come with a sole custody decision. Shared parenting also gives each parent a break from continuous child care responsibilities.
Who can defend the status quo?Again, Omdahl and others can’t rely on facts to support their anti-father stance on custody cases, but they need to.After all, they’re arguing for an existing system that has proven itself time and again to be destructive of the fabric of American society.
The alternative to reform in Maryland is a continuation of the one-size-fits-all tradition of giving sole custody to one parent. This is the outcome in more than 80 percent of cases, so that 35 percent of American children are being raised by only one parent, according to the U.S Census Bureau. In some cases, one parent has walked away from the children. But in most cases, the family courts have created a sole custody arrangement even though both parents are fit and both wish to remain closely involved with their children.
That’s right, more than one child in three sees one of their parents either seldom or never.We’re past knowing how destructive that is of children and society generally, but it’s what we do countless times every day in family courts.Essentially all the social science refutes the system we have and that a dwindling number of anti-father activists support against all that’s sensible and decent.
You won’t be seeing a Lloyd Omdahl or anyone else trotting out the type of compelling data and moral argument that Holstein does.That’s because the facts, fairness and a desire for children’s welfare are on our side.Only special interests (like family lawyers and radical feminists) armed only with specious arguments oppose us.
History and science are on our side.
#sharedparenting, #custodialmother, #non-custodialfather, #winnertakeallcustodysystem