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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.  

February 22, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Those who would deny children meaningful relationships with both parents logged a vote here (Reno Gazette Journal, 2/16/15). The writer’s name is John Rosemond and he identifies himself as a family psychologist, so his opinions must be at least in the ballpark of well-founded, right? I’m sure many people who read his piece will assume as much, but Rosemond is wrong in almost every particular. Readers might well ask why a social scientist neither cites to, links to nor even refers to any social science to support his opinions. I think I know the answer.

Now, Rosemond is careful to use no gendered pronouns, no ‘he’s’ nor ‘she’s’. Nor do the words ‘father’ or ‘mother’ appear anywhere in his article. So again, the incautious reader may well conclude that his opinions are likewise scrupulously gender-neutral. Alas, that too would be wrong.

No, a correct reading of his piece requires the conclusion that Rosemond is that commonest of birds, an anti-father advocate. That’s because he recycles anti-father/anti-shared parenting arguments that long ago were found to be entirely without merit. I could recommend a book or two for him to read, but I suspect he wouldn’t be interested. Rosemond looks very much like a person who sees, or believes he sees, certain phenomena in his clinical practice and draws conclusions from that extremely limited and obviously unrepresentative dataset.

Rosemond’s arguments are anything but new. In order of appearance they are first, “family court judges are supposed to rule in the best interests of children, but they rule in the best interests of parents instead.”

These judges are ruling for the best interests of the parents but their best interests are not the issue. Concerning custody, the children’s best interests should rule.

That’s a lot of error in two very short sentences. For starters, Rosemond plainly thinks that equally-shared custody post-divorce is common. That’s patent nonsense of course. No dataset indicates any such thing and many do the opposite. The data maintained by the United States Bureau of the Census, for example, demonstrate that mothers have gotten sole or primary custody between 82% and 86% of the time for the past 20 years. A more recent study of Nebraska custody cases found fathers receiving sole or primary custody under 15% of the time. So Rosemond’s assumption that equal parenting is commonplace is flat wrong. Needless to say, he cited nothing to back up said assumption.

Worse, he falls back on the usual anti-shared parenting claim that, in some way, children’s interests and those of parents are antithetical. In the overwhelming majority of cases, that’s just not true. On the contrary large bodies of scrupulous research show that neither parent wants to lose the children in a divorce and the kids don’t want to lose their parents. And I’ll wager that even Rosemond knows something about the huge body of knowledge demonstrating that children do better with both parents in their lives. So how does he figure that courts ordering equal custody, on those rare occasions in which that happens, are acting on the parents’ behalf, but not the children’s? He doesn’t explain, likely because doing so would lead him to actual facts underpinning child well-being as it relates to parental custody. And Rosemond’s not going there.

His second argument is as tired and lacking as the first.

The parents have responsibilities, one of which is to accept that even when both of them are equally fit, it is best that custody and visitation arrangements guarantee to the greatest degree possible that their kids will enjoy post-divorce living arrangements that are least disruptive. Going from one home to another every few days — which many if not most of these rulings mandate — is disruptive.

It’s fascinating what Rosemond finds to be “disruptive” and what he doesn’t. According to him, going from one home to another “every few days” is disruptive to a child, but losing a parent is not. This guy’s a family psychologist? Or perhaps he’s simply ignorant of the fact that parents consigned to the role of every-other-weekend entertainer of their children rather rapidly lose the status of parent both in their own eyes and that of their children. Sociologist Susan Stewart’s term for them is “Disneyland Dads,” and it’s apt. The 14% parenting time about which Rosemond and the courts are so enthusiastic is, for all practical purposes, no parenting at all. Does Rosemond know the social science that demonstrates that unless each parent has the kids at least 35% of the time, the benefits of shared parenting to the children are generally lost? If he does, he’s not letting on.

For that matter, is he aware of the social science that shows that children themselves avidly support equal parenting post-divorce? Again, apparently not. If equal parenting time is so bad for children, why are they so enthusiastic about it? It’s a question Rosemond can’t answer, so he doesn’t ask it.

Then there’s the nettlesome matter of simple arithmetic. Since Rosemond’s main concern is the child shuttling between two houses, he might want to consider that any judge with more than about a fourth-grade education can figure out that, a two-weeks-with-Dad/two-weeks-with-Mom schedule involves much less shuttling than the usual two-weeks-with-Mom/two-days-with-Dad/two-weeks-with-Mom routine. The child does about half the travel with the former arrangement than the latter.

That of course would require the child to have reached a certain age, probably about 12. But for younger kids, a one-week-with-Dad/one-week-with-Mom schedule would have about the same amount of traveling between the two as the current practice.

And of course if Mom and Dad don’t get along, having one drop little Andy or Jenny off at school and the other pick him/her up at the same place means they literally never have to see each other.

A smidgen of creative thinking is all it takes to solve Rosemond’s problem of disruption. But he doesn’t seem interested in solving the problem, only in posing it as a supposedly insurmountable barrier to equal parenting. It isn’t.

Rosemond’s piece is bad enough to require a second blog posting, which I’ll provide tomorrow.

Thanks to Lenona for the heads-up.

#sharedparenting, #parentingtime, #equalparenting, #divorce, #bestinterestsofchildren

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