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.  

February 6, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I swear, it’s hard to read this stuff (Canton Daily Ledger, 2/4/19).  That’s a fact even though I’ve been reading scurrilous, uninformed opposition to shared parenting for over a decade now.  By now though, I think the information on shared parenting should be sufficiently well-known that commentators should at least be conversant with the basics.  I understand that family lawyers will, for the most part, oppose shared parenting regardless of facts or a decent regard for children.  They do it to protect their income streams.  It’s a moral abomination, but I expect it.

But Deb Robinson doesn’t seem to be a lawyer.  She’s just someone who influences public opinion via the column she writes for the Ledger.  As such, you might think she’d make the effort to educate herself at least a little on the topics she chooses to write about.  Indeed, she may do that with other topics, but when it comes to shared parenting, she shoots from the hip. 

It seems there was an op-ed published somewhere, sometime by someone in Illinois that encouraged the state’s legislators to pass a shared parenting bill this year.  Robinson doesn’t like it.  Why?  According to her, her ex-husband was a bad man, so bad in fact that his kids should be deprived of his parental input.  Needless to say, we’re not entitled to hear from him on the subject, but let’s assume Robinson’s telling the unvarnished truth.  So what?

She admits that men don’t have a monopoly on bad parental behavior; she admits that the proposed legislation has multiple “outs” for judges when faced with abusive parents, unfit parents, etc.; and she admits that, under the proposed law, shared parenting would just be a starting point and judges could order non-equal time arrangements in appropriate cases.

But Robinson is so dead set against shared parenting she simply can’t grasp what those things mean.
I don’t believe government should be involved in this with blanket judgement for all.
Come again?  Somehow there are all those exceptions in the bill of which Robinson is perfectly aware, but, in her mind, they add up to a “blanket judgement (sic) for all.”  When you want a mule to understand something, you swat it upside the head with a two-by-four.  With Robinson, I don’t know what it takes.

Then there’s this:
I think [shared custody] is great when a couple comes to the determination their relationship isn’t going to work, but they gladly put aside their differences to co-parent their children.
Of course if Robinson knew the science on shared parenting, she’d know that, even when parents don’t “put aside their differences to co-parent their children,” shared parenting is still usually a better arrangement than sole or primary custody.  Indeed, it tends to ameliorate parental conflict over time.  So it’s not just the parents who get along with each other who make shared parenting work.  Many others do too.

But Robinson’s ignorance doesn’t stop at shared parenting or the bill before the Illinois legislature.  She seems to know little or nothing about what takes place now in family courts.  For example,
[The op-ed] notes in various places there are multiple safeguards throughout to make sure the parents are safe and capable caregivers.
My question. Who determines they are safe and capable caregivers?
The court?
Uh, yes.  In other words, Ms. Robinson, the exact same person would make those determinations under a shared parenting regime as makes them now – the judge.  Does she imagine that, through some magic, no one under a sole/primary parenting system ever need determine whether a parent is a “safe and capable caregiver?”  If she understands that judges in family courts do that every day, then why is their doing so only a problem if the law presumes shared parenting?  It’s an obvious question, but one of which Robinson is blissfully unaware.

Then she offers this excuse for her opposition:
I think it should be decided on a case-by-case basis, as it is now, by a judge who is familiar with that particular case in front of him/her.
That’s in part just a rehash of her previous false claim that, in some way, with all those exceptions to the shared parenting rule, judges can only order shared parenting, that it’s a “blanket judgment.”  Her statement also assumes that judges aren’t making blanket judgements now, but they’re doing exactly that.

If they’re not, how does Robinson explain the fact that, in 1993, 84% of primary custody went to mothers and today it’s just under 82%?  Does that sound like careful consideration of each case or does it sound like judicial bias in favor of mothers and against fathers?  Is she aware of the many surveys demonstrating judges’ strong preference for maternal custody?  Bias is, by definition, not an individualized assessment.  And bias is exactly what fathers face, and mothers use, in custody cases. 

What about the study conducted by Leading Women for Shared Parenting of custody outcomes in North Dakota courts that shows an astonishing preference for maternal custody?

Nope.  Robinson’s made the most basic error of all; she’s offered an opinion about a subject about which she’s woefully uninformed.  She has an opinion, alright.  The problem is that it’s not supported by easily-available facts.

I have an idea for Robinson.  She should google “Shared Parenting” and see what she comes up with.  Better yet, she could go to the website for the National Parents Organization and learn a bit about the matter.  If she’d done that, she’d know that bills like Illinois’ take into consideration the real problems that can arise when one parent isn’t fit.  More importantly, she’d know that, when parents are fit, as the overwhelming majority of them are, shared parenting is by far the best arrangement for children.  And she’d know why that’s the case.  She’d know that kids form powerful attachments to their parents very early in their lives and that it’s a traumatic blow to their psyches when a court tosses a parent out of their lives.  She’d know that such an order should be made only in the most obvious cases of unfit or dangerous parents, but judges, ignorant of the science on shared parenting as Robinson is, do it all the time.

Education is never wasted, Ms. Robinson.  You should get yourself some sometime.

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