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August 28, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I posted this piece last Monday. It was about a thoroughly scurrilous op-ed by the president of the Iowa State Bar Association, one Skip Kenyon. Since the murder of a two-year-old boy, Mason Wycoff, the movement in the Hawkeye State in favor of shared parenting has gained momentum. That’s partly because Mason’s dad, Dillon Wycoff has gone public with his efforts to gain custody of Mason due to the risk posed by the child’s mother. Stephenie Erickson eventually murdered Mason and committed suicide. Dillon was unable to get the attention of anyone who could have helped save Mason’s life, so he’s arguing for shared parenting and more respect for fathers by family courts.

That scared the family lawyers in the state. They, like family lawyers everywhere, cringe at the thought of fairness for children and fathers. They know all too well that a presumption of shared parenting tends to reduce conflict between former spouses, and reduced conflict means reduced fees, a prospect not beloved of lawyers.

So Kenyon rushed to the barricades with his op-ed that left no doubt that the man has no concept of the many benefits conferred by shared parenting on children and parents alike, to say nothing of the court system. Of course, like all opponents of shared parenting, Kenyon didn’t need facts; he had his story and he stuck to it. Embarrassingly, that included the utterly false claim that shred parenting, because it allows fathers to be involved in their children’s lives, necessarily exposes the kids to abuse, whereas the current system, we are left to assume, doesn’t. It apparently didn’t occur to Kenyon that opposing shared parenting based on a fictional propensity for abuse by fathers might not play very well in the context of the murder of a toddler by his mother. I hope Kenyon does better in court than he did on the pages of the Des Moines Register.

Whatever the case, I was encouraged by his op-ed to email him a set of questions that I hoped might spur him to actually think about shared parenting and what he was saying. Alas, I was to be disappointed. Here’s my email to Kenyon:

Dear Mr. Kenyon:

I'm a journalist with the National Parents Organization. I read with interest your op-ed in the Des Moines Register. I'm preparing an article on the issue of shared parenting in Iowa and would appreciate your responses to certain questions your piece raises.

First, you say there's insufficient evidence to support changing the law to more effectively support shared parenting. Are you aware of the 2014 summary of the existing science on children's well-being and parenting time post-divorce by Professor Richard Warshak and endorsed by 110 scientists worldwide? If so, and given their strong support for shared parenting, on what do you base your statement that there is insufficient science to support a presumption of shared care? If not, I will be glad to send you a copy via email.

Second, since the science is obviously of importance to you in forming your opposition to a presumption of shared parenting, please direct me to the science that supports your opinion. That is, if there's not enough science in support of shared parenting, there must be enough supporting the status quo. Can you please provide links or citations to that science? The few studies I'm aware of were dealt with by the Warshak paper, so I'm interested to know what else there is.

Third, do you believe that both fathers and mothers (assuming them to be fit parents) are important to children's welfare during marriage? If not, please explain why you don't. If so, do you believe that both fathers and mothers are important to children's welfare following divorce or separation? If so, do you believe that Iowa courts sufficiently ensure/protect both parent/child relationships post-divorce or separation?

Finally, as you say, Iowa judges presiding in child custody cases are required to rule in the best interests of the children involved. In your understanding, how are those judges trained with regard to the best interests of children? I refer of course to their training in the science regarding children's welfare as it relates to their continuing relationships with both parents following divorce or separation. What studies are they provided with and who teaches the courses?

Thank you for your information.

Robert Franklin, National Parents Organization

And here’s his response:

That’s right, there’s been none. Too bad. I was really looking forward to his providing me with all the science that opposes shared parenting. Given that, for all intents and purposes, there is none, I was quite eager to see what he’d come up with. But naturally, he produced zilch. Plus, he’s spurned my offer of the Warshak survey of existing scientific literature on shared parenting. To me, it’s almost as if he doesn’t care what the science says. Could that be? Is it possible that Kenyon’s just another lawyer protecting his income stream and/or that of his compadres in the Bar? That couldn’t be true, could it? Surely the President of the Iowa State Bar Association doesn’t value attorneys’ fees over the well-being of children. That would be outrageous!

 

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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.

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