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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.  

April 29, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In 2014, 110 prominent scientists from all over the world leant their names to Dr. Richard Warshak’s summary of the established science regarding child well-being and parenting time following the parents’ divorce or separation. Since then, that science has only increased in scale and persuasiveness. In his latest paper, Warshak reprises the recommendations of the 2014 consensus report.

One axiom never addressed by those who would come between a child and its father is that fathers are universally applauded for their hands-on parenting. That’s because children tend strongly to do better with two involved parents than with one. So why is that a good thing during marriage but a bad thing afterward? Opponents of shared parenting never explain. Warshak states the obvious.

Just as we encourage parents in intact families to share care of their children, we believe that the social science evidence on the development of healthy parent-child relationships, and the longterm benefits of healthy parent-child relationships, supports the view that shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.

Needless to say, not all parents are capable of shared parenting. Indeed, some parents aren’t capable of any kind; some are unfit for the job. Family court judges need to sort out those from the overwhelming majority of parents who are both fit and willing to care for their kids.

Young children’s interests benefit when two adequate parents follow a parenting plan that provides their children with balanced and meaningful contact with each parent while avoiding a template that calls for a specific division of time imposed on all families.

That recommendation, like so much of the consensus report is aimed squarely at correcting some of the misinformation bandied about by opponents of shared parenting when faced with a bill before a state legislature that seeks to give kids meaningful relationships with each parent. Their claim is that, in some way, shared parenting bills impose a “one-size-fits-all” on children, parents and judges. That claim is simply untrue. I have read countless shared parenting bills in many different states and nations and not one has ever attempted to deprive judges of the discretion to order shared parenting, sole parenting, primary parenting/visitation or to allow parents to fashion their own parenting plan. Not one. That of course is just common sense, but time and again the red herring argument is made.

Then there’s the issue of children’s attachment. Typically, children form attachments to both parents and it is this vital emotional/psychological connection that family courts routinely break when the parents divorce. That is bad for kids. Shared parenting seeks to maintain those attachments and therefore diminish the trauma children suffer when their parents split up.

In general the results of the studies reviewed in this document are favorable to parenting plans that more evenly balance young children’s time between two homes. Child developmental theory and data show that babies normally form attachments to both parents and that a parent’s absence for long periods of time jeopardizes the security of these attachments. Evidence regarding the amount of parenting time in intact families and regarding the impact of daycare demonstrates that spending half time with infants and toddlers is more than sufficient to support children’s needs. Thus, to maximize children’s chances of having good and secure relationships with each parent, we encourage both parents to maximize the time they spend with their children. Parents have no reason to worry if they share parenting time up to 50/50 when this is compatible with the logistics of each parent’s schedule.

By contrast with shared parenting, existing parenting time orders that marginalize one parent in the lives of their children exacerbate the trauma of divorce.

Parenting plans that provide children with contact no more than six days per month with a parent, and require the children to wait more than a week between contacts, tax the parent-child relationships. This type of limited access schedule risks compromising the foundation of the parent-child bond. It deprives children of the type of relationship and contact that most children want with both parents. The research supports the growing trend of statutory law and case law that encourages maximizing children’s time with both parents. This may be even more important for young children in order to lay a strong foundation for their relationships with their fathers and to foster security in those relationships.

And shared parenting should begin early in the child’s life. Again, there’s no evidence to support the claim that children’s overnights with one parent should be strictly limited.

There is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers. Maintaining children’s attachment relationships with each parent is an important consideration when developing parenting plans. The likelihood of maintaining these relationships is maximized by reducing the lengths of separations between children and each parent and by providing adequate parenting time for each parent. Such arrangements allow each parent to learn about the child’s individual needs and to hone parenting skills most appropriate for each developmental period.

Shared parenting is best for kids in all but fairly unusual circumstances. Some parents shouldn’t have kids at all, but that’s no excuse for depriving the rest of kids of one of the two most important people in their lives.

Our recommendations apply in normal circumstances, for most children with most parents. The fact that some parents are negligent, abusive, or grossly deficient in their parenting—parents whose children would need protection from them even in intact families—should not be used to deprive the majority of children who were being raised by two loving parents from continuing to have that care after their parents separate.

Those are the opinions of 110 of the most respected and accomplished scientists working in this field. Shared parenting bills before state legislatures generally keep close to the recommendations of the consensus report, as they should. It’s far past time that opponents get out of the way and allow needed progress to be made.

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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, #Dr.RichardWarshak, #child'sbestinterests

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