February 18, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
It’s that time of year again when state legislatures are beginning new sessions and looking at new bills. Across the country, many states will be considering bills that would give children more equal access to each parent when the adults split up. Right now, Florida, Missouri, Maryland and Massachusetts lead the pack, but more are to follow.
As usual, those opposing shared parenting bills are mostly family lawyers. Oh, there are others of course, but family attorneys routinely make up the backbone of the opposition to children’s rights to both parents. And when we see those lawyers testifying before state legislative committees, it’s always astonishing to hear how entirely threadbare their arguments are. Every year they recycle the same tired old debunked notions. If they had a real case to make against shared parenting, don’t you think they’d make it?
Here’s more of the same (Lexis-Nexis, 2/16/16). It’s a short piece by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Santo Artusa. As a lawyer, he decides what child custody should consist of for his clients, how much time a child gets to see its father and mother. His piece is unsettling, albeit not surprising. Mr. Artusa plainly doesn’t know the basics about the ever-growing volume of social science on shared parenting and children’s well-being.
Strangely, he entitles his article “The Shared Parenting Myth,” but never gets around to identifying what the myth is. That gives us a pretty good idea of the intellectual rigor behind his remarks.
Artusa gets one thing right, but only one.
There continues to be a growing trend toward shared parenting time arrangements throughout the United States and New Jersey is no different.
Does he pause to consider why that might be? He does not. Had Artusa read any of the countless studies demonstrating the importance to children of healthy relationships with both parents, he might start to get the idea. But plainly, he hasn’t done so, a fact I call odd given his profession. Like the family law judges who daily rule on the “best interests of the child,” Artusa has no idea of what that is or how parenting time orders affect it. That is how he “serves” his clients.
Undaunted by ignorance, he plunges ahead.
The theory behind shared parenting is that the children benefit from the ongoing, consistent contact with both parents.
No, it’s not a theory, it’s a fact. It’s a fact insofar as it can be, given the complexity of the issue of parenting time and children’s welfare. If Artusa is going to practice family law and opine publicly about this topic, he should read up on the subject. Really, it’s just basic due diligence.
Basically, Artusa’s opposition to shared parenting and its manifest benefits to kids is based in practicality. According to him, equal parenting might be OK if its logistics weren’t so darned hard for lawyers like him to figure out. First, grappling with who makes the rules in an equal parenting arrangement is too much for him.
Even in traditional homes where two parents live together with their children, keeping the house rules clear and what the household expectations are is very hard. Imagine this in two different homes, where the parents are often at complete odds with each other. Who sets the rules?
Does he notice that he’s arguing for sole custody with the child entirely cut off from one parent? Apparently not. Yes, two households mean two sets of rules, most of which are pretty much the same, but some of which may differ. So what? Is there any evidence anywhere that children spending time with each parent separately, with their differing rules, is too much for them to handle? I’ve never seen it and of course Artusa cites nothing.
Aside from the rules, let's talk logistics. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do not see how shuttling a child back and forth from one home to the next every other day or every other week makes sense. Children need consistency.
Yes, it’s that old chestnut again. I’d be surprised at Artusa’s mentioning it, given the fact that it’s been conclusively disproven by Mallin Bergstrom’s massive study of over 150,000 Swedish children. Bergstrom demonstrated that children in equal parenting arrangements suffered not at all from changing households on a week-on/week-off basis. I’d be surprised if I thought Artusa knew the first thing about the science of shared parenting as it relates to children’s well-being. But he knows nothing about that, so of course he doesn’t know about Bergstrom’s work. That ignorance allows him to pretend that seeing Mom for a week and then Dad for a week is too much for kids to handle. It’s not, but Artusa doesn’t know it.
He blunders on.
While I am not advocating only weekend and holiday time, I am advocating that a child should know where their home really is. Where their room really is, which should be in one house. They need to know, which parent makes the key everyday decisions, manages their schooling, their activities without constant fighting and friction.
Citations needed. Why does a child only have one room in only one house? Artusa doesn’t say. Why does he associate “fighting and friction” with shared parenting, but not the sole or primary parenting that judges order every day? Of course the scientific literature on the subject shows that equal parenting tends to reduce conflict between divorced parents, but, needless to say, Artusa once again doesn’t know about it. He’s got his story and he’s stickin’ to it, regardless of the facts and more importantly, regardless of children’s welfare.
While my view maybe "conservative", it is certainly practical and straightforward. Before you seek or agree to shared parenting time, take a step back and really think how your child will handle it. Think how your life may have been if you were forced into a shared parenting situation.
Better yet, “take a step backward,” sit down with a book or two, and learn something about the many benefits of shared parenting for kids and adults alike. Learn that children in shared parenting arrangements are healthier, happier, better adjusted, do better in school, are less likely to engage in crime, do drugs, etc. than are kids in sole parenting arrangements. Read the studies that show children expressing the overwhelming preference for equal parenting when their parents divorce. Do that and then opine. But until you know something about your subject, stay quiet. At least that way you won’t mislead others.
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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