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.
September 25, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD
Two bills passed the New York Legislature this session making it easier for adopted kids to contact and get to know their birth parents. This article lauds both as a step out of the “stone age.” (New York Daily News, 8/9/19).
In the flurry of progressive bills passed at the end of the legislative session, a historic confluence in family law slipped by unnoticed. Two bills passed that reflect a sea change in how we understand adoption. They would put New York at the forefront of recognizing that adoption should be about expanding, not obliterating, family ties.
One would allow adoptees to access their “long form” birth certificates and therefore know who their biological parents are. That of course would allow them greater access to the two people who brought them into the world. Many, many adoptees bemoan their inability to know their biological parents and experience the absence as an acute loss.
The second adoption bill that passed is more controversial, though it stems from the exact same idea as the first: we should allow adoptees to embrace their origins as well as their new families. An increasing percentage of adoptions are of children in foster care. In contrast to private adoptions, which are voluntary, these adoptions result from the government severing the legal relationship between parent and child. Traditionally, terminating parental rights — called “the death penalty” of family law — has meant an abrupt end to the parent-child relationship, even when, as is often the case, the children lived much of their lives with their parents, visited with them while in foster care, and remain strongly bonded to them.
So the second bill would allow kids adopted out of foster care to maintain relationships with the parents whose rights were terminated.
National Parents Organization (NPO) released , the first of its kind to analyze and rank each state on its child custody statutes. This Shared Parenting Report Card study was motivated by the impact that family courts have on children. The focus was on how each state addresses the promotion of shared parenting in its legislative statutes, and Hawaii’s “C-” grade that year was a bleak reflection of the lack of progress we’ve made towards better outcomes for our children.
Five years later, the has been released, and Hawaii still has made no significant progress.
The consensus among leading child development research organizations confirms that children do best when they have equal access to both loving, fit parents after divorce or separation. Hawaii has fallen behind on this issue, and children are suffering because our elected leaders have failed to make shared parenting a priority.
NPO has compiled some of the best studies available on this matter, viewable on our website, and the data is clear. The well-being of children is directly impacted by their ability to have meaningful relationships with both parents. Shared parenting and a legal presumption of equal parenting time is best for children in most cases.
Read the full article here.
September 24, 2019 by Maressa Brown
No one can argue with the fact that successful co-parenting benefits everyone involved—especially a child whose parents continue to share responsibilities post-separation or divorce. Unfortunately, many state governments appear to be the last ones onboard with this conclusion.
According to a new report card on shared parenting from the National Parents Organization (NPO), a third of states received a D+ grade or worse for how well their child custody statutes encourage an arrangement where children spend equal time with both parents after divorce or separation.
The report card served as an update to the organization's 2014 evaluation of states' statutory provisions encouraging shared parenting, which they defined as an arrangement where both parents have equal responsibility for raising their child(ren). "We define shared parenting as, at a minimum, a parent has a third of the time with a child," says Ginger Gentile, deputy executive director of the National Parents Organization. "We're getting away from the 1950s model of the kids are with one parent, often the mom, and they often see the visiting parent on the weekends."
The good news: NPO pointed out that over the past five years, 13 shared parenting bills in nine states have been signed into law. Meanwhile, the number of states that are considered "shared parenting" states (which means they got a C grade or higher) increased from 26 in 2014 to 34 in 2019.
The bad news: Seventeen states got Ds or Fs.
Read the full article here.
September 23, 2019 by Linda Reutzel, Member, National Board of Directors
Kentucky’s monumental passage of the Shared-Parenting bill last year has been deemed the most “popular” vote in the state. According to an August 30, 2019 opinion piece in Kentucky’s Courier-Journal, the Administrative Office of the Courts has issued a report that shows a reduction in domestic court cases by 11% and a reduction of 445 cases of domestic violence since the full law took effect. Missouri, the Show-Me state, has clearly been shown.
Two key and influential Missouri state lawmakers, Senator Wayne Wallingford and Representative Kathy Swan are continuing to rise to the challenge in making effective change on this issue here at home. They will kick-off a viewing of the powerful and gripping documentary “Erasing Family,” in Cape Girardeau in October 2019. The documentary explores trauma experienced by children when a loving, fit parent is erased from their lives due to separation and divorce. This launch of the documentary in Missouri is fittingly in their corner of the state. Additional screenings will continue as the documentary goes on the road.
More and more Missouri elected officials are turning their attention to the critical and frequently intertwined issues of social justice and criminal justice and this provides every opportunity for the legislation that these lawmakers will file again in the 2020 session to be a top priority in the Missouri Assembly. The policy change simply starts with a premise that there are two fit parents, provides a judge with discretion to determine otherwise, and additionally, provides a built-in mechanism for a rebuttable presumption
September 23, 2019 by Dave Edmondson, National Parents Organization of Texas
The just released 2019 Shared Parenting Report Card gave our great state of Texas a not so great C-. Our poor showing contradicts the principle of equality that is at the absolute core of American and Texan ideology.
No, this isn’t going to be a discussion about egalitarianism, or the war between liberal and conservative values. This is a discussion about children and what’s in their best interest. It’s a discussion about a child’s right to have both parents equally represented in his or her life, working together, helping them become the best person he or she can possibly become.
In the earliest years of learning and childhood development, we teach our children the concept of right and wrong. We teach them about differences and the importance of tolerance and acceptance. From these lessons our children learn important foundations for social skills and self-esteem. They develop their own perceptions of the world and a moral outlook with which to compare and contrast everything. At the root of these teachings, we show our children and hope that they embody the notion that we are all created equal.Read the rest here.
September 23, 2019
PHOENIX – A parents' rights group rates Arizona one of the top states for policies that encourage shared parenting in child custody cases.
The National Parents Organization recently issued a report card on family court policies that gave more than a third of U.S. states a failing grade for not giving both parents equal access to their children.
Ginger Gentile, the group’s deputy executive director, says NPO gave only two states – Arizona and Kentucky – a grade of 'A' for statutes that promote shared parenting.
"Most states are still failing their children by not ensuring that parents have equal access as the default,” she points out. “This means parents have to go to court to fight to see their children, or if they cannot afford to go to court, they might lose out on access altogether."
Gentile says the group promotes joint custody arrangements, where both parents have equal standing in raising children after a separation or divorce.
Read the rest of the article here.
As other states move ahead on a crucial matter of social justice, Massachusetts lags behind by failing to promote shared parenting for parents who do not live together.
The absence of a father is a stronger predictor of a troubled life journey for a child than is race or poverty. There is little reason to expect changes in rates of divorce or childbearing outside of marriage such that 25% of children grow up without a father in the home. But we can help these children immensely by enacting shared parenting — a flexible arrangement that ensures that a child spends no less than 35% of her time with each separated parent, if both parents are fit and there has been no domestic violence.
Abundant research from at least 18 countries has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the great majority of children do better with this arrangement, despite the best efforts of loving single mothers.
The 2019 Shared Parenting Report Card, a just-released study of all 50 states by National Parents Organization, shows that many states have moved forward in the past five years on this critical matter, with nine states having passed legislative changes since 2014 that improved their grades, on average, from a D+ to a B-. There has been no change in Massachusetts custody law despite years of advocacy. While shared parenting legislation has passed the Massachusetts House at least twice, it has died in the Senate each time.
Read the rest of the article here and please comment on the newspaper’s site.
September 22, 2019 by Don Hubin, Chair, National Board of Directors
National Parents Organization (NPO) published the 2019 NPO Shared Parenting Report Card, and the news for Ohioans isn’t great. The Buckeye state received a middling “C,” the same grade it received in the NPO study five years ago.
That’s no surprise. In those five years, the Ohio legislature has made no improvements in our laws dealing with post-separation parenting.
NPO researchers evaluated the statutes of Ohio, the other 49 states and the District of Columbia to determine the degree to which those laws promote the well-being of children by encouraging separated parents to share as equally as possible in rearing their children. NPO then graded the states’ statutes based on 21 factors that encourage or discourage shared parenting. The average grade for all of the states is a disappointing “C-.”
Read the rest of the article here and please comment on the newspaper’s site.
September 20, 2019 by Josh Blumenthal, Co-Chair, National Parents Organization of New York
National Parents Organization has just released its latest report card grading each state on its shared parenting statutes. New York and Rhode Island were the only states to get an F.
F is not for Family Friendly. F is for Failure.
Per the report, “New York has no statutory preference for, or presumption of, shared parenting (joint legal custody and shared physical custody) for temporary or final orders...New York has no explicit statutory recognition of shared parenting, joint legal custody, shared residential custody or similar concepts."
States receiving As not only encourage shared residential custody but create a presumption of equal parenting by parents living apart. Many states fall short of this ideal, but give a legal preference for or strong encouragement of shared parenting.
Read the rest of the article here.
September 16, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
The unbelievable just got more so, if that’s possible.
I wrote about the Ryan West case here and here. It’s one of the most remarkable travesties of justice I’ve seen in a long while. I won’t reprise all the facts here. Read my two previous posts for a sense of just what can happen when judges decide how they want to rule and then go about finding facts and imagining law to fit their preconceived notions.
Ryan West has a daughter, Alanna, with his previous wife. The two divorced. Ryan earns a good living and is the best of fathers; his ex is voluntarily underemployed and spends little time with Alanna. The judge who granted their divorce gave Ryan parenting time of between 70% and 80%. In short, Alanna lives with him and his girlfriend Kym.
But, despite his being the custodial father, the judge ordered him to pay child support to the non-custodial mother. Seriously, that’s what she did. That was based solely on Ryan’s income and ignored the fact that his ex testified under oath that she was capable of earning $80,000 per year, but didn’t because she preferred to spend more time with her daughter. That is, she admitted to being intentionally underemployed. Under normal circumstances, a court would impute to her $80,000 annually and calculate child support accordingly. But the judge ignored his ex’s earning ability.
That meant she ordered Ryan to pay over $1,300 in child support, despite being the custodial parent and caring for Alanna about three-fourths of the time.
September 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
The federal government spends 10 times the money on foster care and adoption as it does on family reunification. Plus, it allows states to divert money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to pay for foster care and promote adoption. The latter tends to make poor families poorer and therefore enhances the possibility of child neglect, which in turn leads to a greater need for foster care. It also tends to break up poor families.
Those are the main takeaways from this fine article (Talk Poverty, 8/23/19). The writer, Elizabeth Brico, quotes extensively from Richard Wexler who is perhaps this country’s best-informed commentator on our foster care and adoption system.
The United States government incentivizes foster care placements and forced adoption over social support and reunification with birth families.
When we offer people money if they take action A, we can’t be surprised when they tend to take action A. During the Clinton Administration, Congress passed and the president signed the Adoption and Safe Families Act. It offered states hefty financial incentives to take kids into foster care and to have them adopted out of foster care. Unsurprisingly, states reported doing exactly that. Rates of taking children from parents shot up.
September 12, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
If you want to know just a few of the ways in which our system of divorce doesn’t make sense, read this article (Business Insider, 8/19/19). In it, Dave Johnson recounts the “8 things I wish I knew (sic) before I got divorced.” Now, this being a business publication, those eight things are strictly a matter of Johnson’s finances, so of course there are many more pitfalls of divorce that he doesn’t deal with.
From his style of writing, Johnson seems like a nice guy, perhaps too nice. He seems slightly miffed about things many find all but intolerable, for example, spousal support.
Let me be perfectly clear: I am not complaining about having to pay spousal support. For 30 years, I was either the sole or principal breadwinner in our household, and consequently, my wife never needed to pursue a career. Now that she does need to pay all her bills, I need to help out.
Johnson isn’t complaining, but a lot of men would be. About 97% of spousal support obligors are men according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Johnson spent 30 years as the sole or almost-sole support of his wife. Now he gets to continue doing the same, probably until the day he dies, but without any of the non-financial help she provided when they were married. To be a bit clearer on what that means, Johnson adds this:
It turns out that the judgment is a lot of money, relatively speaking — about 20% of the take-home pay I was earning at the time of the divorce. As someone who probably doesn't think hard enough about budgets, saving, investment, and retirement, it only became apparent to me when I started writing those checks after the divorce that this money accounts for virtually all of my disposable income.
In short, from here on out, Johnson will be able to add nothing to his savings, whatever they are. That means he won’t be able to retire – ever. He’ll likely work until the day he dies because if he doesn’t, he risks being held in contempt of court. His “golden years” are beginning to look like lead.
September 11, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Should states be required to provide children lawyers in dependency hearings? That’s the question presented by an Indiana case brought on behalf of 10 children against Marion, Lake and Scott counties (Chronicle of Social Change, 2/6/19). The children’s lawyers are attempting to, for the first time in U.S. history, establish a constitutional right to counsel for kids in non-criminal cases. The federal Department of Health and Human Services has recently made money available to states to pay counsel for kids in those cases.
Dependency cases seek to decide whether parents should have their parental rights terminated due to alleged abuse, neglect or unfitness.
Since children are considered to be unable to act for themselves in countless situations, adults act for them. Those adults are usually their parents. We rely on them to make decisions about everything related to the care, feeding, education, health, etc. of their children. As such, the legal relationship between parents and their children is akin to that of a guardian and a ward or a trustee who’s charged with acting for another person. Usually, parents act for their kids as a matter of course without anyone noticing. We trust parents to act in their children’s interests.
But all that can change when parents are alleged to have acted at odds with their children’s interests, as in the case of abuse, neglect or unfitness. Those bring into question parents’ ability to do what’s best for their kids. And that’s the issue in dependency hearings. So, instead of giving parents the power to act for their children, we say that their interest and that of their children are opposed. The parents have an interest in retaining care of their kids, but the children may need better caregivers. Legally, those interests are opposed and opposing interests in the legal system can’t have the same lawyer. It’s a clear conflict of interest.
So clearly, children should have the right to a lawyer. Or should they? After all, in dependency court, it’s the state that has the burden of proof. The parents are presumed to be fit and to have committed no acts of abuse or neglect until Child Protective Services produces evidence to the contrary.
September 10, 2019 by Ginger Gentile, Deputy Executive Director of the National Parents Organization
In 2014, the National Parents Organization created a report card grading each state on their shared parenting guidelines. Most states got a C or below. The report card looked at statutes- not outcomes. It was also rated on whether or not the guidelines encouraged or enforced shared parenting (when the courts assume that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities after divorce or separation). This report card was not only a useful tool for activists, it also generated national media coverage. On September 18th, 2019, we will be announcing our new report card in a press conference in New York City.
Some states have improved. Most notably, Kentucky, who under the leadership of Matt Hale and the local NPO chapter passed the ONLY default shared parenting law in the US. Yes, you read that correctly! As late as 2018, no states had a law that said 50/50 was the starting point. And this is crazy considering that support for shared parenting polls as high as 87%. Also, Kentucky courts released finding that the nation's first true shared parenting law worked! Domestic violence claims dropped. Divorce filings dropped by 11%.
September 9, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Japan has long been a haven for parents who kidnap their children. I’ve written numerous times about that fact, but always in the context of international kidnapping. So, for example, a Japanese mother married to an American father and living in the U.S. can simply pack up the kids, move back to Japan and, effectively, Dad has no recourse. Yes, Japan signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but, like so many other countries, refuses to enforce its terms.
This fine article not only supplies the reason Japanese courts do so, it lets us know that the same thing is happening to Japanese parents in Japan (Washington Post, 8/22/19).
The concept behind Japanese child custody law is this:
Traditionally, children are not viewed as individuals with rights, or as belonging to their parents, but as the “property of the household” where they live. As soon as children move to a new household, the estranged parent becomes an outsider, with no right to disturb the new one.
That tradition of course is entirely at odds with the biology of parent-child attachment. As Dr. Anna Machin has told us in her book The Life of Dad, pregnancy and affectionate care by Mom and physical interaction such as play (often rough and tumble play) produce increases in oxytocin in both parent and baby. Those are then reinforced with dopamine that gives a pleasurable sensation associated with the particular parenting behavior. Again, both adult and child get both the oxytocin and the dopamine. That’s part of the neurochemistry of parent-child attachment.
September 6, 2019 by Ginger Gentile, Deputy Executive Director of the National Parents Organization
Philadelphia will host the Parental Alienation Study Group Conference September 12th-14th. This will feature leading experts on the worst side-effect of divorce: when a loving, fit parent is cut out of their child’s life by the other parent, often aided by the court system. For the first time, the conference will offer a track just for targeted parents, in addition to tracks for the legal system and researchers. I will be there to talk on a panel about how the media covers Parental Alienation, as well as to show my film, Erasing Family. If you are attending, please make sure to say hello!
There is a lot of overlap between the Parental Alienation advocacy community and Shared Parenting activism. Researchers have found that shared parenting reduces conflict and the need for parents to “win” custody. Equal contact with both parents allows children to develop relationships with each parent, and also allows them to see that what one parent says about the other is not always true.
September 5, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, National Board of Directors
The Nebraska Supreme Court has taken a giant step toward shared parenting in the state. It expressly overruled existing Supreme Court precedent in Trimble v. Trimble that stated that shared parenting was disfavored and should only be granted in rare instances. Those were instances in which the divorcing parents got along well, communicated well and exhibited a high degree of maturity. The Court strongly suggests that the Trimble holding, that’s governed parenting time cases since 1984, is “clearly incorrect.”
In State of Nebraska on behalf of Kaaden S. vs. Jeffery T., et al, the high court ruled that, in child custody cases, there is no blanket presumption about what parenting arrangement is in the child’s interests, but that each case is to be decided on its own merits. The best interests of the child will be the trial court’s sole guide in deciding parenting time.
September 4, 2019 by Ginger Gentile, Deputy Executive Director of the National Parents Organization
When parents who have limited or no contact with their children after divorce or separation become advocates for family court reform their emotions can influence their actions and messaging. Their motivation is to save their relationships with their own children and this blossoms into activism for all children. But this desperation can turn into frustration with society that turns a blind eye to the over 22 million adults in the US who report being alienated from their kids. That is why the entry of the ACODs (Adult Children of Divorce) into advocacy for shared parenting is so exciting; their trauma has passed and they are infusing new energy into the movement.
Having grown up with a parent erased from their lives or the stress of a high conflict custody battle clouding their childhood, ACODs have a visceral reaction to this issue. Instead of wanting to change a law or a statute, they want systemic change. Their focus is making sure parents reduce conflict and have the tools to do so--not through court orders but through mediation that works, collaborative law, mental health services, and a system that doesn’t pit parents against each other. Default Shared Parenting, which assumes that both parents will have equal access to their kids if both parents are fit, is a big part of this solution, but ACODs view it as part of a holistic approach.
National Parents Organization's own Matt Hale has an op-ed in the Courier Journal in Kentucky, who used court statistics to debunk many myths about shared parenting. Some key takeaways:
"Kentucky’s family court caseload and domestic violence cases had been rising, which is expected because our state’s population is increasing. But, in early July 2017, that trend abruptly stopped and family court cases and domestic violence filings began declining..."
"The year before Kentucky had any shared parenting laws, beginning July 14, 2016, and lasting 365 days, there were 22,512 family court cases filed. They declined to 21,847 the year the partial shared parenting law began. When the complete shared parenting law took effect in the last 12 months, new cases plummeted to 19,991. In other words, Kentucky’s families filed to sue each other in family court more than 11% less despite the state’s population growth..."
"Domestic violence claims declined by 248 in 2017 when the partial shared parenting law was enacted. Further, the decline of domestic violence accelerated by dropping an additional 445 cases as the complete shared parenting law took effect in 2018 versus the prior year... "
August 30, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Gabe Batstone pleaded with the court to transfer custody of his eight-year-old daughter Teagan to him. His ex-wife, Lisa, had been acting erratically and had been involuntarily hospitalized as an acute risk for suicide. That all came within the context of Gabe’s concern about Teagan’s safety with her mother. His efforts to gain custody seemed to exacerbate Lisa’s emotional problems, making her behavior even more problematical. But the judge refused Gabe’s request and maintained Lisa’s primary custody.
That was true despite the fact that neighbors had long feared for Teagan’s safety in her mother’s custody. Church members too were concerned. Apparently due to Lisa’s behavior toward Teagan, there was a breach in the relationship between the congregation and Lisa.
Not long after the judge’s refusal of a modification of custody, Lisa and Teagan had a “camp out” in their living room. As Teagan slept, Lisa first considered stabbing her to death, but instead put a plastic bag over the little girl’s head and smothered her.
She then loaded Teagan’s body into the trunk of her car and got stuck in ditch. Police discovered the body and arrested her.
Last time I wrote about how schools often thwart fathers’ relationships with their kids. As researcher Dr. Jessica Troilo found in her latest study, school officials often assume that Mom is not only the primary parent, but the only one needing to be kept up to date on little Andy or Jenny’s academic progress/problems. It turns out that it’s not just family courts that keep kids apart from their dads; other institutions do too.
British evolutionary anthropologist and author of the book The Life of Dad, Dr. Anna Machin of Cambridge University, agrees. But Machin was writing about the medical profession, not schools.
Machin’s work includes interviewing fathers. They report being reduced to second-class citizens throughout their partners’ pregnancies. Here’s how Machin describes their experiences:
[T]heir experience is that [fathers’] dedication is often unrecognized, even actively belittled. In a world where the role of mum is paramount, even sanctified, the lack of focus and support available to fathers and the enduring stereotype of the inept dad leave many of the dads I study with the overall impression that, while paying lip service to their needs, our society would very much prefer it if they would kindly get back in their box.
Much of that, says Machin, is the fault of the “medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth.” To me, approaching those as a medical phenomenon has much to recommend it. After all, there’s much of a medical nature that can go wrong during pregnancy, birth and afterward. We’d be fools to pretend otherwise. Still, if bringing a baby into the world is viewed exclusively as a medical issue, then, by definition, fathers aren’t part of the process. They’re not pregnant and they won’t give birth, so why pay attention to them?
Many state legislatures are considering bills that would make it the norm for more children of divorce to live equal time with each of their parents, modeled on landmark laws in Arizona in 2013 and Kentucky in 2018. But in some states, legislators feel caught between supporting the Me Too movement, which holds men accountable for changing behaviors toward women that were countenanced in the past, and supporting equal parenting time, which holds fathers as equally good parents as mothers.
What is the connection between equal parenting time and Me Too? Is one about men’s rights and the other about women’s rights? Both are demanding deep-seated cultural changes, but are they at odds?
For the last 20 years, I have been studying the long-term effects on children associated with the different amounts of parenting time they had with each of their separated parents. It turns out that the standard, every-other weekend schedule with dad has had an unintended and largely unnoticed consequence.
Children who had the standard visitation schedule are unsure, into their 20s, about how much they actually matter to their fathers. Those who had more parenting time with their fathers are more assured that they matter to them, and those who had equal parenting time with both of their parents have equally strong, close, and emotionally secure relationships with both their parents, on a par with young adults whose parents stayed married.
A groundbreaking event within the field of shared parenting is quickly taking shape, in which for the first time researchers, practitioners and activists in the co-parenting community will be engaged in a facilitated dialogue and collaborative process of problem-solving with researchers, practitioners and activists in the arena of family violence and woman abuse.
My work in the field of co-parenting has spanned over a quarter century. It started with a research question, the focus of my doctoral dissertation, of why so many fathers disengage from their children’s lives after separation and divorce. The findings of my research led me to challenge the many myths and stereotypes surrounding non-residential parents. My main focus since then has been the promotion of shared parenting as in the best interests of children and families.
Much of my time today is devoted to the International Council on Shared Parenting, of which I am president. The Council is unique in that it studies shared parenting from the perspective of children, and includes three groups of members: academic scientists, child and family professionals, and members of civil society. We have held numerous national and international conferences, which have led to a series of research-based consensus statements on shared parenting as in the best interests of the great majority of children and families, which have served as the foundation of family law reform efforts in several counties, including the Council of Europe resolution that shared parenting be established as the foundation of family law in member states.
The Fifth International Conference on Shared Parenting will be held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on May 29-June 1, 2020. The theme of the conference will be the Intersection of Shared Parenting and Family Violence. The importance of this theme is underscored by the fact that because shared parenting is contraindicated in situations of family violence, legislators have been reluctant to legislate a presumption of shared parenting, assuming (incorrectly) that co-parenting arrangements would become the norm in situations of violence and abuse. Family violence remains a major obstacle in the establishment of shared parenting as the foundation of family law around the globe, and the conference aims to address issues surrounding family violence while at the same time exploring the feasibility of a rebuttable legal presumption of shared parenting which fully takes on board the concerns of family violence specialists.
Can people from different ideological persuasions work together for a shared goal? You bet! My friendship with Robert Samery, one of the founders of the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), is a great example. Not only is CAFE the largest financial supporter of my documentary, Erasing Family, but I had the pleasure of tabling with Robert at many conferences. I’m impressed by how he is able to talk to anyone. He created an organization that is not only bold in its initiatives, but friendly and welcoming!
So, what’s in CAFE’s secret sauce? Canadians are just nicer, eh? Between screenings of my film Erasing Family at the American Psychological Conference, I was able to ask some questions about working with feminists, domestic violence groups, and building a broad coalition for family court reform.
Ginger: Robert, can you tell me about the mission of the Canadian Association for Equality?
Robert: We deal with equality issues in general and focus on boys’ and men’s issues in Canada. We are a boys’ and men’s issues organization- not a men’s rights organization. Family law is one of our main areas of focus.
Ginger: Have you seen any shift in the understanding of the general public since you’ve started working on family court issues?
Robert: When I started dealing with these issues about 15 years ago, there was denial that this was even an issue. This is no longer the case. People now have more understanding in how lack of equal-shared parenting can cause harm.