December 14, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
This is another huge win for the National Parents Organization (Washington Post, 12/11/17). It’s a strongly positive article about shared parenting in a major mainstream newspaper. It specifically cites NPO as the major force behind recent legislative changes promoting equal parenting. It quotes the head of the NPO Virginia chapter, Christian Paasch, at length.
Important too is the fact that the Post has a strongly liberal readership. In the past, liberal publications were generally less open to the idea of shared parenting than their more conservative counterparts. The Washington Post’s daily circulation is the eighth largest in the country. The article was picked up by at least two other major dailies, the Denver Post and the Chicago Tribune whose circulations are, respectively, 10th and 11th in the nation. Together, those papers reach about 1.3 million readers every day. This article represents an important change in the zeitgeist regarding family court reform.
In short, the message of shared parental care of children post-divorce just received an enormous boost and NPO is the major force behind that achievement. When the Washington Post wanted to know about shared parenting, its reporter came to us.
And the article by Michael Alison Chandler isn’t what we’ve seen so often in the past, i.e. dismissive of shared parenting and heavily weighted toward its opponents. On the contrary, except for the necessary balance, it’s strongly on the side of shared parenting.
Chandler cites the recent legislation on shared parenting as well as bills pending in state legislatures. She goes on to describe the momentum shared parenting has gained.
The legal push for custody arrangements follows years of lobbying by fathers’ rights advocates who say men feel alienated from their children and overburdened by child-support obligations. This movement is gaining new traction with support from across the political spectrum, as more lawmakers respond to this appeal for gender equality and, among some conservatives, the frustration of a newly emboldened constituency of men who say they are being shortchanged.
Unlike so many reporters in the past, Chandler accurately portrays the basics of shared parenting, including some nuance.
Proponents emphasize that the bills overwhelmingly address parents who are otherwise fit and not abusive. They say that family courts are out of step with modern families and that the current system benefits highly paid lawyers while depriving millions of children of the chance to build meaningful relationships with their fathers.
“The way the system is set up now, two parents enter the courtroom. When they leave, one is a parent, and the other is a visitor,” said Christian Paasch, 37, chair of the National Parents Organization of Virginia.
A presumption of shared parenting would replace the “winner takes all” approach currently embedded in the law, he said, and replace it with a new message: “You will both still be parents, and you both matter to your children.”
Right. The overwhelming majority of parents are fit to care for their children. There is no excuse for removing either from the child’s life. Christian Paasch’s statements take center stage. They speak the most basic truth about shared parenting: after divorce, both parents will “still be parents, and you both matter to your children.”
That’s a message that resonates across the entire political spectrum. As many polls have demonstrated, shared parenting finds support among over 70% of the population, among liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, men and women, etc.
Having explained the Tender Years Doctrine, Chandler goes on to discuss the best interest of the child standard.
The guiding principle in custody rulings changed to a more flexible and gender-neutral “best interest of the child” standard, and states overturned previous rules that disallowed joint custody.
But despite changing laws, judges continued to use their discretion to award primary physical custody overwhelmingly to mothers in many places, reflecting a lingering bias, many say.
To her great credit, Chandler doesn’t allow readers to believe that judges are in fact acting in children’s interests just because state laws require them to. In fact, their pro-mother bias is well-known and well-established by surveys of their attitudes and those of attorneys practicing in their courts. Good for Chandler that she looks behind the veil of judicial impartiality to see what’s really there.
Chandler ends her piece with several paragraphs about Paasch’s struggle to maintain a meaningful relationship with his son. She tells it sympathetically and leaves readers with the strong feeling that shared parenting is one of the needed reforms in American life and law.
Well done, Ms. Chandler. Well done Mr. Paasch. And well done NPO.
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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