November 7, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
This past legislative session, Massachusetts considered and rejected shared parenting legislation. In doing so legislators had the unhelpful and frankly mendacious input of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. Writing for the LWVMA, one Palma McLaughlin made statement after statement about the two bills or the science on shared parenting that were at best misleading and at worst outright false. I don’t know if this indicates that the LWVMA is now officially a gender feminist organization or not, but McLaughlin’s two-page screed has all the earmarks of exactly that.
The most effective decision making about parenting time after separation is inescapably case specific. Statutory presumptions prescribing specific allocations of shared parenting time are unsupportable because no prescription will fit all, or even the majority of, families.
Indeed, every family is different and many won’t be able to make a strict 50/50 split of parenting time work. That of course is why the bills would have established equal parenting not as a requirement but as a presumption. The idea that the bills would have required some division of parenting time for “all or even the majority of families” is absurd. As with most such bills, the Bay State ones would have allowed parents to devise their own plans to fit their own needs or for a judge to do so in the event the parents couldn’t agree. It’s an outworn canard that shared parenting bills constitute a one-size-fits-all approach to post-divorce parenting. It wasn’t true of the MA bills or of any others I’ve ever seen.
Unlike the current law, these bills:
- focus on the “right to parent” rather than the well-being and best interest of the child
Wrong again. As everyone even a bit familiar with post-divorce parenting time laws knows, there is no issue with a “right to parent.” The U.S. Supreme Court decided that a long time ago and has reaffirmed it many times. Generally speaking, parents have the “right to parent.” Of course fathers are better off being married, but single dads also have a “right to parent” once they’ve demonstrated that they are in fact the dad. (Yes, there are exceptions to this, but there’s no question that parents, as a general rule, have parental rights.)
And of course, since the best interest of the child governs all aspects of child custody and parenting time in Massachusetts, the proposed bills in no way attempted to alter that standard. McLaughlin’s statement attempts to set up an antagonism between parenting time and a child’s best interests. Given that, in the great majority of the cases, having meaningful time with each parent is in the child’s best interests, there is no such antagonism. To a great degree, the two are one in the same.
constrain judges from making custody decisions in the best interests of the child and prevent them from considering indicators predictive of success or failure
McLaughlin is being coy here. In what way the proposed legislation would have forced judges to ignore “indicators of success or failure,” is anyone’s guess. But suffice it to say that children with two parents overwhelmingly tend to outperform children with but a single parent. They do so in essentially every category we measure from education to emotional well-being to physical well-being to employment to involvement with drugs and alcohol to crime. So, in fact shared parenting laws urge judges to do what is in children’s best interests and promotes their success in life.
- undermine the domestic violence custody presumption laws and other protections for survivors of domestic violence and their children
Utterly untrue. Shared parenting laws, both proposed and enacted invariably allow judges to withhold custody and/or parenting time from abusive parents. McLaughlin’s claim is entirely without merit.
- incorporate the concepts derived from the theory of parental alienation despite the theory lacking general acceptance by the authoritative scientific experts
Because the anti-dad crowd has essentially nothing with which to support its position, it falls back on simply making up claims that have no validity. First, one of the citations McLaughlin provided has nothing to do with parental alienation, but with parental alienation syndrome. Needless to say, the two are different animals. Parental alienation is the behavior of a parent in attempting to turn a child away from an appropriate object of its attachment and affection, i.e. the other parent. PAS is a discrete set of symptoms manifested by a child in response to alienation. To say the least, not all PA results in PAS.
And of course the notion that PA is lacks “general acceptance by the authoritative scientific experts” is so much nonsense. A glance at Dr. William Bernet’s tome, published just three years ago, aggregating the science on PA from over 30 different countries gives the lie to McLaughlin’s sad excuse for opposing shared parenting.
I’ll have more to say in the future about McLaughlin’s attempt to denigrate shared parenting and keep fathers out of children’s lives. But for now, suffice it to say that, once again, an organization that pretends to represent women actually works against them. Denying real parenting time to fathers saddles mothers with so much child care that earning a living, having a meaningful career and saving for retirement become problematical. Gender feminist groups routinely oppose shared parenting and, in so doing, thwart the legitimate aspirations of the very women they claim to support. Bluntly, these organizations would rather mothers remain dependent on men via child support and alimony than be independent, self-supporting members of society.
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, #LeagueofWomenVoters, #parentalalienation, #childabuse