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November 15, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The fight for shared parenting in Michigan will be heating up again  in the coming months and this article by NPO’s Linda Wright reprinted in a blog is the opening salvo (KiddieMom, 11/13/18).  Actually, that may have come on Tuesday, November 6, i.e. Election Day, when Jim Runestad won his bid for a state senate seat.  Runestad of course was the force responsible for SB 4691 that would establish a presumption of equal parenting following divorce or separation.

Needless to say, Wright’s piece is, shall we say, right on.
 When children have 2 fit, prepared, and able moms and dads, why not keep both? Even if the moms and dads separate, why are the children forced to choose among them?
Yes, that is the core question, isn’t it?  It’s the question no one in the anti-shared parenting forces has an answer for.  Children bond with each of their parents.  Breaking those bonds is among the most traumatic things to which a child can be subjected.  So why does divorce so often mean the loss of a parent to a child?  And why do courts routinely claim to be acting “in the best interests of children” when they remove one parent from the child’s life?

As Canadian economist Paul Millar wrote in his book The Best Interests of Children: An Evidence-Based Approach, the idea that removing one parent from a child’s life is in the child’s interest “is not only unsupported by evidence, but, worse, appears to promote harmful outcomes for children through the legal support given the destruction of one of the important parental relationships for the child.”  You’d think that would be the simplest common sense, but judges routinely don’t get it.
[SB 4691] is focused on altering the present winner-take-all landscape that requires an excellent parent, generally the dad, nearly completely out of the picture and into a role that more looks like a visitor.
It’s that “winner-take-all” aspect of child custody proceedings that’s so pernicious.  Going into a divorce and custody case, both parents know that one will emerge the “winner” and one the “loser” in the child custody sweepstakes.  Nothing could be better calculated to ratchet up stress, conflict and bitterness than that.  Nothing could more powerfully motivate parents to fight tooth and nail.  After all, there’s nothing of greater importance than a parent’s relationship with his/her children.  No one wants to lose that, so let the donnybrook begin.

And since there has to be a winner and a loser, the process of picking each often resembles that of the Scholastic philosophers arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  The distinctions judges end up making in order to deem one parent better than the other often range into the absurd.  The focus should be on whether a parent is fit and able to care for the child.  The answer in almost every case will be ‘yes.’  If it is, equal parenting time for each parent should be the default order.

And yes, the failure of state legislatures and courts to embrace equal parenting that’s been found to best promote children’s interests post-divorce is a disaster not only for the kids, but for all of us whose tax money goes to try to solve all the problems that fatherlessness creates.
If moms are better for singularly raising their kids, why do federal stats show that these children represent 63 percent of teen suicides? Why are we not outraged that 71 percent of kids who drop-out of high school are from single mother homes? Why should we not resolve the truth that 85 percent of those in prison come from fatherless houses? Why would anyone not desire to repair this crisis?
Of course Wright could have listed countless other areas adversely affected by the scourge of fatherlessness.  But she’d made her point.  Our refusal to do the obvious – reform family law to promote meaningful relationships between kids and both their parents – impacts all of us.  Children suffer the most, but all of us pay a price.  Our society is more dysfunctional, adults and children alike are less happy, less fulfilled and our pocketbooks are lighter and all because we refuse to see what’s staring us in the face.

Next year, Michigan will have the opportunity to, along with states like Kentucky, Missouri, Arizona and Utah, lead us in the right direction.

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