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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

October 24, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Is it possible that, with all that’s been written and said about shared parenting in so many parts of the world, that it will be Italy that leads the way?  It is.  Indeed, it appears likely.

Now, this Washington Post article about the bill that’s pending before the Italian Parliament is little different from the usual claptrap published by those who oppose children maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents when the adults split up (Washington Post, 9/18/18).  That of course means that it’s simply wrong on several fronts and misleading on the others.  Plus, writer Anna Momigliano tosses in a rich disregard for Italian mothers in her zeal to mischaracterize the bill, its probable effects and its supporters.

What would the bill do?  First, it emphasizes the need for mediation in child custody cases.  More importantly, it establishes a presumption of equal or nearly equal parenting following divorce or separation.  Of course it also provides an exception when a parent abuses a child.  So how does Momigliano characterize the bill?
Children of divorced couples would spend the exact same amount of time living with each parent… 
No, actually they wouldn’t.  Momigliano would know that if she’d read the bill.  Here’s how the bill is described (in an admittedly poor translation):
[T]he new structure provides, in an innovative manner, the right of the child to maintain a balanced and continuous relationship with the father and mother, to receive care, education, education and moral assistance from both parental figures and to spend with each of their parents adequate, equal and equivalent times, except for cases of material impossibility. Equal times are guaranteed if even only one of the parents requests it. In any case, the stay of not less than twelve days per month, including overnight stays, is guaranteed with the father and with the mother, unless there is a proven and justified risk of prejudice to the psycho-physical health of the child in strictly identified cases.
So what Momigliano calls “the exact same amount of time” is actually anything from a 50/50 split to a 40/60 one.  But we’ve seen that sort of misrepresentation before.  One of the standard objections of the anti-shared parenting crowd is that such a law would “tie judges’ hands,” i.e. prevent them from dealing with each case individually.  So, in the service of that argument, Momigliano casts her “exact same amount of time” slur.  It’s simply untrue.

Another part of the usual, off-the-shelf claims against shared parenting is that advocates don’t care about children, but simply want to reduce child support payments.  And so, in her sole reference to pro-shared parenting arguments, Momigliano offers this:
The bill’s supporters contend that this would make child support obsolete…
I’m not kidding.  In an article of 700 words or so, that’s the only reference she makes to the countless fact- and science-based arguments in favor of shared parenting.  To Momigliano and the usual walking dead at the WaPo, shared parenting is all about child support.  Never mind the manifold benefits of shared parenting to kids; never mind that fathers do a better job of paying what they owe than do mothers; never mind that child support systems are riddled with incompetence, theft, false paternity and the like; never mind that they’re often far more about Mom support than about child support; and never mind that their draconian enforcement mechanisms fall most heavily on the parents least able to endure them.  No, all of that is to be ignored in favor of continuing the transfer of wealth from fathers to mothers.  Indeed, that last is precisely the policy of radical feminists in Europe as described at NPO’s conference on shared parenting by German lawyer and former feminist Hildegard Sunderhof.

Yes, the child support system is ripe for root-and-branch reform, but that’s not the point of shared parenting.  The point of shared parenting can be located in the wealth of scientific literature that finds it to be by far the best arrangement for kids following their parents’ divorce. 

Do I need to mention that nowhere in Momigliano’s article does she mention that science?  You’d think that, in any such piece, children’s welfare might rate a comment, but of course this is the Washington Post, so…

What Momigliano does mention is parental alienation syndrome.  Of course she does.  This is an anti-shared parenting screed, so naturally PAS is included.  Just as naturally, it’s misrepresented.
PAS holds that a parent can belittle or bad-mouth the other parent to the point that their child becomes hostile and no longer wants to spend time with them.
Well, that’s quite the golden gloss on PAS.  A more accurate statement would have been that PAS and parental alienation are child abuse, that children (particularly very young ones) exposed to either can actually become disoriented to what is real and what is not.  When Mommy tells little Andy or Jenny that Daddy is an ogre and doesn’t love them, but when they’re with him, they experience no such thing, kids can become deeply confused as the nature of reality.  That nudges them uncomfortably close to psychosis. 

So, as usual, those like Momigliano, who seek to cast doubt on the existence of PA or PAS inevitably find themselves defending that sort of child abuse.  Why do such an unconscionable thing? 

Find out tomorrow. 

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