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December 27, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As I mentioned in my last piece, Bud Dale’s letter to the Family Law Advisory Committee of the Kansas Judicial Council is riddled with inaccuracies and at least one outright lie. But it gets worse. Dale opposes any change in the law that would promote shared parenting arrangements for kids post-divorce. His letter would have the committee believe that he does so out of the highest of high principles, but a closer examination of Dale himself suggests otherwise.

Dale is both a lawyer and a psychologist. Wearing his latter hat, he earns money as a custody evaluator. Wearing his former, he earns money as a mediator. In short, he feeds at two troughs provided by the existing family court system, troughs that might well run dry and be upended by a presumption of shared parenting. Dare we to deduce that his opposition to shared parenting is more of a matter of self-interest than of the best interests of kids?

It’s a good question. If he were truly interested in children’s well-being, why would he stoop to the level of lying about the NPO report on parenting time guidelines in Ohio? That’s a move borne of desperation, not of a reasoned effort toward bettering children’s outcomes following their parents’ divorce.

But it gets worse yet.

Among other things, Dale got himself placed on the AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts) committee that promulgated “Guidelines for the Use of Social Science Research in Family Law” whose stated purpose is “"to promote the effective, responsible, and ethical use of social science research in family law–related practices, programs, and policies.” Now, having served on that committee and helped draft those guidelines, you might think Dale would be encouraged to, well, follow them himself. But, as President Nixon once memorably said on tape, “That would be wrong.”

Indeed, Dale’s communication to the Kansas committee violated most of the Guidelines he himself helped draft. For example,
5: BE CURRENT AND COMPREHENSIVE.
Ensure that claims about the state of research evidence on any issue are based upon complete reviews of the cumulative body of foundational and current research studies on that issue.
But Dale’s claims to the committee are anything but. He dismisses some 60 studies that support shared parenting out of hand and misrepresents Prof. Linda Nielsen’s analysis of them as having “numerous inaccuracies” and “numerous additional errors,” but fails to mention what they are. And, as I said in my previous piece, at least some of those errors were trivial issues of copy editing.
9. IDENTIFY CONSENSUS AND DISAGREEMENT ON QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF RESEARCH
Identify areas of broad consensus and disagreement about the state of the research on an issue, acknowledging strengths and deficits in quantity and quality of research studies.
And yet Dale has apparently never (and certainly not in his letter to the committee) mentioned Warshak’s consensus report on shared parenting and the best interests of children under the age of three. By any stretch of the imagination, it’s a pretty remarkable omission. After all, when 110 scientists working in the field explicitly endorse such a report, you’d think it would carry some weight. But Dale, having urged others to behave professionally in their representations of scientific research, does the exact opposite, not only in his letter to the committee, but apparently to everyone else as well. Amazing, but true.

And then there’s
10. DISCLOSE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Identify and disclose potential conflicts of interest that may influence or bias research claims in support of specific interventions, services, or child custody policies.
Yes, Dale makes at least some of his living as a custody evaluator and mediator, both of which areas could be adversely impacted by a legal presumption of shared parenting. But he neglects to mention same to the committee, some of whom might be naïve enough to believe that he’s a disinterested commentator. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Then there’s the remarkable fact that Dale promised the committee his own meta-analysis of the pertinent literature on parenting time post-divorce. No, he’s not qualified to do the analysis himself, so he had to hire a graduate student to do it for him, but his prose informing the committee of the said meta-analysis positively bubbles with the notion that it will sweep away all that’s gone before it.

I doubt it. As recently as 2016, Baude, et al published a meta-analysis of the existing literature (that’s barely been supplemented since).
The studies included here defined joint custody as a proportion of time spent by children in each home ranging from a one-third time division (70%/30%) to an equal share (50%/50%). The overall results of the 19 selected studies revealed better outcomes for children in joint custody, with a weak effect size (d = .109). Moreover, this association was moderated by the amount of time that children spent with their 2 parents.
In other words, the positive effect of shared parenting on children is present, but not a strong influence as long as all those studies are taken together. The effect grows stronger the closer to 50/50 the parenting time gets. In these blogs, I’ve said time and again that the shared parenting benefit tends to kick in at about a 35/65 division of time and improves as it approaches 50/50.

So what will Dale add to that? My guess is nothing. He’s an opponent of shared parenting and will do whatever it takes to come up with an analysis that seeks to cast doubt on the practice.

More on this later.

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