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February 19, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Yesterday’s piece was about the spurious objections to shared parenting posted by a New Jersey family lawyer. Crazily, his profession requires him to represent clients in cases in which the most important issue is the best interests of children, but he knows nothing about the social science on the subject. In that he’s like most family court judges who daily make rulings supposedly based on children’s best interests, but routinely demonstrate their complete lack of information on that topic as it relates to parenting time.

Today is, roughly, more of the same. Unfortunately, I don’t have a link to the video, but today’s piece is about the testimony before the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on Senate Bill 250 that would create a presumption that “approximately equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents… is in the best interest of the child.”

SB 250 would do other minor things, like require written findings by family court judges in certain circumstances, but the nut of the matter is the presumption of “approximately equal time-sharing” between parents.

Predictably, those opposed to children having real relationships with both parents post-divorce trotted out their favorite shibboleths. As with the New Jersey lawyer, if they had any real arguments, I suspect they’d have made them. But they didn’t.

Most remarkable is the claim that "There is no research that supports shared parenting, … as being in the best interests of the children." I know, it’s an astonishing claim to make, given the fact that there is a small mountain of social science demonstrating exactly that. But again, these people are grasping at straws.

Shared parenting proponents should present each member of the Committee with a copy of Dr. Edward Kruk’s book “The Equal Parenting Presumption,” in which he presents no fewer than 16 separate reasons – each supported by abundant and reliable science – why shared parenting is in the best interests not only of children, but of adults and the judicial system as well.

Here they are:

Equal parenting preserves children’s relationships with both parents;

Equal parenting preserves parents’ relationships with their children;

Equal parenting decreases parental conflict and prevents family violence;

Equal parenting reflects children’s preferences and views about their needs and best interests;

Equal parenting reflects parents’ preferences and views about their children’s needs and best interests; Equal parenting reflects child caregiving arrangements before divorce;

Equal parenting enhances the quality of parent-child relationships;

Equal parenting decreases parental focus on “mathematizing time” and reduces litigation;

Equal parenting provides an incentive for inter-parental negotiation, mediation, and the development of co-operative parenting plans;

Equal parenting provides a clear and consistent guideline for judicial decision-making;

Equal parenting reduces the risk and incidence of parental alienation;

Equal parenting enables enforcement of parenting orders, as parents are more likely to abide by an equal parenting order;

Equal parenting addresses social justice imperatives regarding protection of children’s rights;

Equal parenting addresses social justice imperatives regarding parental authority, autonomy, equality, rights and responsibilities;

The discretionary best-interests-of-the-child/sole custody model is not empirically supported;

A rebuttable legal presumption of equal parenting responsibility is empirically supported.

That pretty much covers the waterfront. Given that the science on children’s welfare so powerfully calls for equal parenting, it is beyond shocking that opponents stoop to claiming there’s no science on the issue. There is, but, just as Dr. Kruk says, none of it supports the current system of marginalizing one parent in the life of his kids.

That of course is one of the major problems opponents of shared parenting face. In arguing against shared parenting, they offer no alternative but the status quo. That status quo has been shown many times to be detrimental to children and parents alike. I’d love to see those opponents try to make the case for the sole/primary parents system we have now. Of course they can’t, so they hope no one will notice that they have nothing to offer except specious criticisms of what is in fact best for kids.

And that pretty much takes care of the second argument set out before the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to SB 250. That claim too is one we’ve seen many times before. It alleges that shared parenting places the wants of parents before the best interests of children.

That’s too silly to even comment on. As Dr. Kruk’s precis of the science on shared parenting aptly shows, what’s good for kids and what’s good for parents coincide. As long as both parents are fit and willing to care for their children, shared parenting is in children’s best interests. Period. There’s no conflict between what parents want and what children need.

Finally, opponents scraped the bottom of the barrel claiming that children with special needs or who are breastfeeding would be forced to spend equal time with each parent, regardless of their needs. To that I can only urge them to read the bill. It’s very short – short enough for even modest attention spans. At a total of 18 lines of type, even limited intellects can manage to understand it. The bill says nothing whatsoever about breastfeeding infants or special needs children. That means it leaves current law in place on those issues. That further means that, if opponents don’t object to existing law on those topics, they shouldn’t object to SB 250. If they do object to current law, they should file a bill to fix it. The law now allows judges plenty of discretion to issue orders that take those special situations into consideration.

As we invariably see, opponents of shared parenting have nothing on which to base their objections. The overwhelming weight of science is against them as are fairness, decency and justice.

No wonder their arguments don’t hold water.

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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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