December 18, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
H.B. 4691 that would establish a presumption of equal or near-equal parenting time following divorce is still pending before the Michigan Legislature. And, since it is, the state’s divorce lawyers are still terrified and frantically misrepresenting the bill to anyone who’ll listen. Given that, it’ll come as no surprise that they make the usual long-debunked and generally false claims.
Now, the last time they did this, it was via divorce lawyer Robert Schaefer who, among other falsehoods, claimed that there was much science opposed to shared parenting. Knowing that to be untrue, I emailed him and asked for citations. Needless to say, he never got back to me.
So the latest nonsense is pretty much a reprise of Schaefer’s claims, but without the reference to the science that overwhelmingly demonstrates shared parenting’s superiority over all other post-divorce parenting arrangements (Hometown Life, 12/17/17).
Other than that though, the recent piece and Schaefers’ are virtually indistinguishable. That’s true even down to the photo of the writer who this time is one Henry Gornbein. Like Schaefer, it didn’t occur to Gornbein that providing a photo of himself positively oozing financial prosperity might not be the best idea when opposing shared parenting. Shared parenting is, among other excellent attributes, a threat to the earnings of divorce lawyers. It reduces conflict because it does away with the winner-take-all system that sets parents at each others’ throats, terrifies them about losing their children and lines lawyers’ pockets due to the resulting animosity. Generally speaking, people know where divorce lawyers get their money. Gornbein didn’t need to rub it in, but he did.
Oddly enough, most of his article isn’t his, but another divorce lawyer’s, Diana Raimi. (H.B. 4691 has been pending for several months now, but opponents haven’t been able to find a non-lawyer who opposes it. Interesting, no?) She makes a list of objections, not one of which has the slightest merit. Indeed, perhaps the best thing about the entire piece is the comment below it by Sarah Verkade. Verkade clearly knows what she’s talking about and her remarks, shall we say, don’t take any prisoners. I particularly like the part in which she introduces Gornbein to Black’s Law Dictionary and the definition of a presumption. Ouch!
So what are Raimi’s objections?
It places the interests of parents over the interests of children, eliminating existing well-understood definitions of “best interests of the child” and even deleting existing law’s requirement that all decisions be guided by the child’s best interest.
That of course is utterly untrue. All of it. As I’ve said countless times and the science of the matter bears out that parents’ interest in having a relationship with their children and their children’s best interests are very much one and the same. Given that, children maintaining healthy, loving relationships with both parents tends strongly to serve their interests. It does so better than any other arrangement devised by the well-heeled lawyers who oppose shared parenting. As to the bill’s deleting the requirement that courts act in children’s best interests, one has to read all the way to page four of the bill to learn that that’s simply untrue. It’s there in black and white.
Then Raimi this:
It takes away judges’ discretion to look at each family’s individual situation and instead imposes rigid overnight-counting requirements that apply in all cases, except the most extreme circumstances.
It does no such thing. “Rigid overnight-counting requirements?” Really? Here’s what the bill actually says:
"SUBSTANTIALLY EQUAL PARENTING TIME" MEANS THE CHILD RESIDES FOR ALTERNATING PERIODS OF TIME WITH EACH PARENT AND THAT THE COURT SEEKS TO PROVIDE BALANCE AND EQUALITY IN OVERNIGHTS, WITH 1 PARENT NOT TO EXCEED 200 OVERNIGHTS IN A YEAR UNLESS OTHERWISE ADJUSTED FOR OR AGREED TO BY THE PARTIES.
Gee, that doesn’t look rigid to me. The court is to “seek” to provide “balance” with no more than a 200/165 split “unless otherwise adjusted or agreed to by the parties.” In other words, as in all other proposed shared parenting bills, Mom and Dad can agree to anything they want and the “balance” is more hortatory than required. Indeed, if it were me writing the bill, I’d never include language like “otherwise adjusted” because it can mean essentially anything.
It destroys our current law’s protection of continuity for children, inviting prolonged litigation that could repeatedly uproot children.
“Continuity?” Again, really? Here’s the type of “continuity” the current system offers the child. “Little Andy or Jenny, you’ve seen your father every day of your life, have come to rely on his support, guidance, love, protection and care. But now you get to see him only every other weekend and, if Mom decides to interfere with even that meager visitation, we won’t make a fuss. So basically, say goodbye to Dad. We know you love and need him, but that’s too bad.” It is precisely that lack of continuity that’s so damaging to children that’s responsible for the shared parenting movement.
I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.
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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