February 2, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Yesterday, we established that the self-described “Ireland’s First Shared Parenting Survey” is anything but. More accurately it would be entitled “What Irish Custodial Mothers Say About Their Parental Situation.” That’s because the survey “defines” “shared parenting” so broadly as to include literally any amount of parenting time for each parent. The survey may well include as “shared parenting” arrangement one in which Dad sees little Andy or Jenny one day out of the year. Or less.
Not only is parenting time not part of the “definition,” One Family made no mention of the fact that 58.1% of custodial parents said the non-custodial parent sees the child “monthly” or less often. Neither did the survey write-up make note of the fact that words like “weekly” and “monthly” mean virtually nothing in the context of parenting time. Dad seeing the children for seven days straight, once per month is a far cry from him seeing them one day, or one hour once per month. But not for One Family; to that organization, it’s all the same.
Then there’s the fact that the survey, for reasons we can only guess at, questioned 88% mothers and 11% fathers. As I mentioned yesterday, there’s absolutely no reason to have conducted the survey in that way. For every divorced mother, there’s likely a divorced father. The extreme and unnecessary bias in the survey’s sample essentially nullifies it as a guide to the realities of shared parenting in Ireland.
Equally strange, One Family surveyed parents, 84% of whom had sole or primary custody of the child and only 13% of whom didn’t. Again, for every custodial parent, there’s a non-custodial one. Why intentionally skew one’s own results?
And consider this: Question 12 asked custodial parents (virtually all of whom are mothers in Ireland) whether they receive financial assistance from the non-custodial parent. Some 62% of them said they do. By contrast, Question 13 asked non-custodial parents whether they contribute financially to their children’s “costs.” Remarkably, 92% of them said they do. Does the survey remark on that enormous disparity? It does not.
Now, there could be a number of reasons for the different results to essentially the same question put to two different sets of people. One is that custodial parents may consider “financial contribution” to mean simply child support, while non-custodial parents may notice that, when the child is with him, he buys food, toys, clothing, etc., all of which constitute financially contributing to the child’s costs.
Another alternative is that, because One Family made no effort to confine its survey to ex-couples, it may well be that the cohort of custodial parents receive X amount of child support while the cohort of non-custodial parents pays Y amount.
Yet another is the alternative discovered back in the 90s by Sanford Braver. Braver found that, likely due to continued bad feelings between divorced parents, custodial parents consistently underestimated the amount received and non-custodial parents overestimated the same.
But the Irish study is so badly done and so vaguely worded that it offers no real sense of what is going on among the parents surveyed. By the time the survey gets around to reporting what respondents said about shared parenting, it’s obvious to even the casual reader that the survey is so skewed that we’re left with simply some stated opinions of some largely unknown group of people.
The balance of the report consists of quotations by some of the surveyed parents and the very superficial conclusions from them drawn by One Family. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of those quoted were mothers. The survey provides 66 quotations from mothers versus only 11 from fathers. So, just like its approach to sampling, One Family relied almost solely on mothers to draw its conclusions about what is going on in “shared parenting” arrangements, what works, what doesn’t and how to improve the system.
Moreover, who are these mothers and fathers? When a mother is quoted, is she a custodial mother or not? Same question for the dads. Did it occur to One Family that the parent who rarely sees his kids but pays for their upkeep might have some different opinions about his parenting arrangement than does his ex who has the kids and gets the money? Apparently not. The organization made no effort to differentiate between custodial and non-custodial parents when reporting their opinions.
In short, this survey is, to be charitable, a mess. Read what I wrote here, here and here about Roisin O’Shea’s study of family courts and a much clearer and more accurate picture of the situation arises. Indeed, about the only thing O’Shea’s work and this survey agree on is that the family court system in Ireland is a disaster. But where O’Shea sees the extreme unfairness to fathers and children of courts that give every privilege to mothers almost as a matter of course, the One Family survey is pabulum.
One Family should do everyone a favor and shelve this sorry excuse for a survey of shared parenting.
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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