June 4, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I find I must take a short detour from reporting on the International Conference on Shared Parenting. Why? For two reasons. The first is that the conference so powerfully made the case for shared parenting that this article was impossible for me to allow to stand (IF Studies, 6/2/17). Second, the article is so chock full of false concepts, false “facts” and frank ignorance about shared parenting that I find myself unable to delay a response. Almost every sentence crawls with ignorance and misplaced blame.
Where to begin? I’ll start by being as kind as I can. The author, a psychologist named Hilary Towers, doesn’t like the concept of no-fault divorce. She believes it allows spouses to walk out of a marriage too easily and, when they do, children run a high risk of being harmed. She perceives a moral dimension to marriage and the raising of kids that’s diminished by no-fault divorce.
Fine. I have no strong disagreement with any of that. But, in ways that are hard to figure out, Towers believes that her above-mentioned issues require opposition to shared parenting.
Now, the only reference to shared parenting she cites is an article by Richard Warshak in a non-scholarly journal that ends thus:
If we value dad soothing his fretful baby at 3 a.m. or reading “Goodnight Moon” to his toddler while the parents are living together, why deprive the child of these expressions of fatherly love just because the parents no longer live together, or just because the sun has set?
The fact that Towers quotes the final paragraph of Warshak’s piece leads me to believe that she read the whole article. But everything else she writes leads me to the opposite conclusion. Put simply, Towers hasn’t the least idea of what shared parenting is or why it’s the best solution we have for the difficulties faced by kids of divorce.
An underlying premise of shared parenting is that parental behaviors and choices, so long as they are legal, should not guide the decisions of family judges.
Say what? I’ve been writing about shared parenting five days a week for almost nine years and I’ve never read or heard of such a thing. Where’d Towers get the idea? That’s anyone’s guess, but it certainly isn’t from the Warshak article she quotes or from any of the science on shared parenting. No, Ms. Towers, shared parenting is about nothing of the kind. It’s about allowing children of divorce to not lose contact with a loved parent as long as that parent isn’t unfit, doesn’t engage in child abuse, spousal abuse, etc.
One of the many approaches to learning Thing One about shared parenting would be to read shared parenting statutes and legislative bills. But Towers hasn’t read the science on shared parenting, so she certainly hasn’t read that arcana either.
The goal of shared parenting is indeed insuring that kids get roughly equal time with each parent. Towers never asks why. So I’ll explain it to her. The reason shared parenting is the most desirable outcome of almost all child custody cases is that it’s best for kids of all possible parenting time arrangements. It’s a very simple concept, but one Towers not only never grasps but fails entirely to even consider.
Crazily, she seems to have conflated her animus against no-fault divorce with one against shared parenting.
The fundamental flaw in the current system is the court’s enforcement and ultimately encouragement, over generations, of unilateral, “no-fault” divorce.
No. If Towers doesn’t like no-fault divorce, she shouldn’t tax the courts with enforcing it. Since apparently she doesn’t know the most basic things about laws and courts, I’ll explain that too. Courts aren’t supposed to make laws; that’s the job of the legislative branch of government. Courts are nowhere empowered to ignore the law. They are everywhere empowered to enforce the law. This is Civics 101. Towers should take a course sometime.
But worse than her apparent ignorance of basic information about how our system of government works is her ignorance of the fact that, for children at least, the slings and arrows of divorce court are best protected against by shared parenting. Indeed, that is close to its whole point. Yes, children suffer when their parents split up, but split up they will. We currently average about 1 million divorces per year in the United States alone and many of those involve children. If we really want to protect kids, we’ll order shared parenting whenever possible. With shared parenting, they don’t lose one of their parents with whom they’ve attached early in life.
Like it or not, divorce is here to stay. If Towers really wants to protect children, she’d wholeheartedly embrace shared parenting instead of writing an astonishingly vacuous screed in opposition.
I’ll do more on this later.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
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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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