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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.  

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May 16, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a balanced and informative article on the push for shared parenting in Minnesota (KARE11, 5/14/19).  NPO’s good friend, the redoubtable Molly Olson has been battling the state legislature on behalf of shared parenting for well over a decade now, so it’s good to see her getting a bit of a boost from the press.

The article starts with Scott Vogel and his donnybrook in family court.
Unable to agree on a schedule for the kids, Vogel took their case to court where he has spent three years and more than $150,000 hoping a judge will award him equal parenting time.

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May 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The recent Nebraska case of Dowding v. Dowding gives us a good opportunity to take a second look at our fairly invariable support for equal parenting.  This blog has always recognized that there are plenty of instances in which equal - or even shared – parenting either cannot work or isn’t in a child’s interests.  Serious child abuse is one example, parental unfitness is another and significant geographic separation of the parents is another.  None of those is present in Dowding and yet the court’s decision to grant primary custody to the father isn’t clearly wrong.  Neither is it clearly right.

Timothy and Cameo Dowding were married for about three years, but had an ongoing relationship well before that.  They had a son, Treton, in 2010, but separated in 2016.  Because they weren’t married at the time Treton was born, they both signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity to establish Timothy as his father.

So it was altogether strange that, when their divorce pleadings were filed, Cameo alleged that Timothy wasn’t Treton’s dad and demanded genetic testing.  The court refused the request because, under Nebraska law and the circumstances of the case, the only way to rescind an Acknowledgement of Paternity is to produce evidence that it was brought about by “fraud, duress or material mistake of fact.”

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National Parents Organization wishes our readers and supporters a happy Mother's Day. 

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May 7, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Alabama Senate has overwhelmingly passed a strong shared parenting bill.  SB 266 passed the Senate by a vote of 25 – 4 and now goes on to the House for consideration.

Senator Larry Stutts is the lead sponsor of SB 266.  He had this to say about it and shared parenting:
“Parental equality should be the starting point for every child custody case,” Stutts remarked. “Ultimately, it’s about the child having a right to equal time with both of his or her mother, father, and extended family, provided that both parents are responsible adults.”

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

Read this (The Fatherless Generation).  It’s a good compendium of many of the social, behavioral, emotional, educational, etc. deficits kids experience correlated with fatherlessness.  It’s probably nothing you haven’t seen before, at least piecemeal, but there’s a lot here and it’s well worth brushing up on.

For at least a couple of decades, this type of information has been well known.  Way back in 1994 David Blankenhorn forced the world to confront the deep-rooted problems associated with fatherlessness.  Barbara Dafoe Whitehead did much the same in her 1993 article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled “Dan Quayle Was Right.”  We should have gotten to work then fixing the problem of fatherlessness.  Instead, we did the opposite.  We ignored the problem and vilified fathers and men generally for every imaginable slight and error, whether real or not.  We still do.

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May 4, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Now it’s Virginia’s turn to fail its abused and neglected kids in foster care (Virginia Mercury, 12/11/18).  It’s not a new article, but it reports on an old, old problem.

Back in December, the state legislature received a report done at the behest of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.  It was, according to two lawmakers, a “devastating report.”

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This article originally ran in the Kentucky Era

In the wake of last year’s legislative approval of a law on shared parenting, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has proclaimed today Shared Parenting Day.

The proclamation reflects the need for parents to share equally in parenting their children during times of divorce or separation and Kentucky’s role in highlighting the issue.

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May 2, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It’s another case in which the law makes something hard out of something easy (Indiana Lawyer, 4/30/19).

Jessica Boyd and Jason Baugh weren’t married and had an off-again/on-again relationship.  During that time, Boyd gave birth to two children, both of whom Baugh acknowledged by affidavit to be his.  That constituted proof of paternity under Indiana law, so, when the two adults split up in 2010, the court ordered joint custody for Boyd and Baugh.

For unknown reasons, in 2017, Boyd asked Michael Litton to take a paternity test regarding the younger child.  She and Litton had had an affair during one of her breaks from Baugh.  Sure enough, DNA testing revealed Litton to have fathered the younger of the two children.

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May 1, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Why the retreat from marriage?  Marriage rates have been declining for years in this country, but exactly why they have remains unclear.  That’s because, while overall marriage rates are down, more affluent Americans tend to get and remain married.  Indeed, non-marital childbearing among women with a college education is about 8%, i.e. almost exactly what it was in 1960.  The decline in marriage is pretty much confined to blue collar workers and the poor.

And that’s a brain teaser.  Why would the very people who financially need marriage the most be the ones who tend to forego it?  Married men, particularly those with children earn significantly more than their unmarried and/or childless counterparts.  And in any case, the simple fact is that almost any adult can earn more than the incremental cost of his/her presence in the household.  Mom and baby require X amount to meet their expenses; add Dad and the household requires more money, but the increased amount is something all but the most dysfunctional adults can easily earn.  Two earners are better than one in almost all cases.

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April 29, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

At the urging of NPO’s Matt Hale, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin established April 26th as Shared Parenting Day.  He issued a proclamation saying so, but went a step further saying this:
“In recognition of the passage of HB 528 into law last year, I am designating April 26, 2019, as Shared Parenting Day in Kentucky.  Kentucky’s children are the Commonwealth’s most important asset, and shared parenting benefits our children by providing access to both parents following a divorce or separation, while also factoring in clearly defined exceptions.”
Indeed.  Children are not only our most important asset, but they’re our future.  Every child is the future of our society, our culture, our body politic.  Their well-being is the very core of what we’ve built.  The separation of children from their parents is a wrong that has no justification and certainly not in their “best interests.”

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April 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It’s sometimes amusing to watch the mainstream press grapple with family court issues.  Often enough, the MSM simply gets facts wrong.  This article doesn’t do that and it definitely tries to inform about the gravity of the situation in child custody matters (KFOXTV, 4/24/19).  Unfortunately though it reads like it was written by a reporter with too many facts and too little time to sort out what they all mean.

Still, the piece contains some valuable gems.

It’s raison d’etre is that Thursday was Parental Alienation Day.  That in itself is good news since dedicating a day to PA goes at least some way toward undercutting the notion, advanced by some, that PA either doesn’t exist at all or is merely a clever ruse on the part of fathers to deny “protective” mothers sole custody of children.

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April 26, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It was one year ago today that the Kentucky Legislature passed, by an overwhelming margin, the nation’s first equal parenting bill.  Governor Matt Bevin wasted no time in signing it into law.  Now Gov. Bevin has taken shared parenting one step further.  He’s named April 26th Shared Parenting Day.  From here on out, we’ll commemorate the importance of equal parenting on April 26th.

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Governor Bevin’s office awards NPO’s Matt Hale with nation’s first Shared Parenting Day Proclamation. Shared Parenting Day will be April 26 in Kentucky!

Shared parenting day

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April 25, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The 49-year-old helicopter pilot choked up, recalling the tightness in his chest, the shortness of breath, the panic that gripped him Oct. 20, 2016, when his son was abducted from the family home in Langley.
That pilot is Demetri Urella of British Columbia.  Did mysterious, black-clad strangers enter his home and make off with his child?  Did they break down the door, grab the screaming two-year-old and run for a battered but running van parked on the curb?

No, nothing so Hollywood-inspired.  The abductors were the little boy’s mother, aided and abetted by a judge and a system that makes child abduction – the denial to a child of a parent’s love – all too easy (Vancouver Sun, 4/7/19). 

Urella’s (now ex-) wife, Beatriz Dominguez-Herrero, did what anyone can do.  She went to a judge, claimed that Urella was abusive and, without a scintilla of evidence to back up the claim, was handed not only sole custody of Julian, but a restraining order against Urella.  He wasn’t even there in court to defend himself, his presence being considered unnecessary due to the “special nature” of domestic violence allegations that, for some reason, are allowed to circumvent the most basic of due process rights.

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April 24, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Just 1% of British parents who were eligible to take parental leave in 2018 did so (Huffington Post, 4/5/19).  That’s according to data from the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
A new study indicated that only 9,200 new parents took up the shared leave in 2018 – just 1% of those eligible to it.
If this were an election, parental leave lost – big.  People “voted with their feet” and either remained at work or weren’t there to begin with and therefore didn’t need leave to care for their newborn.

So, are British parents simply unconcerned with their kids, or is something else at work?

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April 22, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Dr. Michael Lamb is possibly the most knowledgeable person about the benefits to children of paternal involvement in their lives.  He is extremely highly respected by his peers.  So it’s always a pleasure and a learning experience to read his work.  Here’s a short article of his that expounds on the effects of father-child relationships and children’s well-being, both at the time and later in life (The Good Men Project, 4/21/19).

Put simply, close, active father-child attachment is associated with a host of benefits for kids.

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April 21, 2019 by Rober Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Two Nebraska courts have gotten it right on shared parenting.  More importantly, the case may be a harbinger of things to come.  The case of Leners v. Leners was probably not easy to decide, particularly for the trial court, but it reached the correct decision which the state Supreme Court upheld.

Sharon and Stacy Leners were married in 1997 and divorced in 2016.  They had two children, one of whom was almost an adult when the case was decided and therefore not part of the custody findings.  The younger child was 15. 

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April 19, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As if children’s welfare agencies don’t have enough problems, now comes this (Chronicle of Social Change, 4/9/19).  It’s a piece by Tom Morton, a veteran of some 39 years’ experience in social work.  Although tactful, Morton is none too pleased with the training social workers receive.  Specifically, despite making up a large percentage of caseworkers for CPS agencies, graduates of schools of social work tend strongly to receive little-to-no training in understanding, assessing and addressing child maltreatment by parents.

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April 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Well!  Being compared to Donald Trump – that is an insult (Washington Times, 4/16/19)!

That’s just what former First Lady Michelle Obama did on Sunday, though.  She compared the country under Trump to a child being cared for by a divorced dad.
“We come from a broken family, we are a little unsettled,” she said, The Independent reported. “Sometimes you spend the weekend with divorced dad. That feels like fun, but then you get sick. That is what America is going through. We are living with divorced dad.”
Yes, heaven forfend that a child should become ill while at his/her father’s house.  Clearly the man is just a dad and wouldn’t have a clue about how to deal with a sick child.  After all, he’s never done that before, has no common sense and wouldn’t dream of having the phone number for the pediatrician.  Chicken soup?  Out of the question.

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April 17, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

If I’ve said once, I’ve said it a hundred times: fathers’ providing financially for their families is a form of childcare.  How is it not?  Earning the money for food, clothing, a roof over the child’s head, etc. provide obvious and necessary benefits for the child.  Often enough, they also give Mom the opportunity to provide the direct hands-on care the child needs and Mom likely wants to give.  And yet courts rarely consider fathers’ financial contributions when deciding who’s been the parent who deserves primary custody.

This article goes me one better (Quillette, 4/11/19).  Its author, Belinda Brown, channels much of what Dr. Anna Machin said in her book The Life of Dad.  But she goes on to make another salient point that neither I nor Machin have.

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April 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This brings us to the nut of the matter in the Final Report of the Australian Law Reform Committee, i.e. its scrapping of the requirement that judges “consider” equal parenting time when parents divorce.  If the number of citations to pro-shared parenting documents and commentators is any indication, the committee entirely ignored any input that favors shared parenting.  Put simply, there are no citations to literature and no quotations of those on the side of shared parenting.

That’s true despite the fact that the report bemoans the current system as “too adversarial,” which it certainly is, and the detrimental effects of father absence.  Needless to say, a presumption of shared parenting would address, if not solve, both problems.  The committee is aware of the extreme imbalance in custody between mothers (69.4%) and fathers (under 9%).  Although it nowhere mentions it, the committee, composed as it is of a substantial number of lawyers and judges, must know that the current system, as a matter of precedent, refuses to enforce orders for access via the court’s power of contempt.  Therefore it must have some inkling of the fact that courts play a big role in the very father absence the report inveighs against.

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April 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Final Report of the Australian Law Reform Commission reads like it was written by opponents of shared parenting.  Indeed, it may have been.  Here in the U.S. and throughout the English-speaking world, we see the same straw-man arguments against shared parenting again and again.  Like all straw men, they carry no weight.  The ALRC’s report, as regards parenting time and children’s best interests, is more of the same.

Its recommendation is that the current requirement that judges consider equal parenting time be done away with.  Why?  The one and only problem claimed by the commission with that requirement is that it introduced “an unnecessary additional step in the process for determining care-time arrangements.”  In short, “considering” shared parenting arrangements is inconvenient for judges. 

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April 11, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It’s a spectacularly bad idea, but the Australian Law Reform Commission is recommending that the requirement that judges at least “consider” shared parenting in child custody cases be “scrapped.” (The Australian, 4/11/19).  What, if anything, the commission’s report recommends to replace that requirement, the linked-to article doesn’t say.

Legal scholar Patrick Parkinson wouldn’t mourn the loss, but

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April 10, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a good article on parental leave policies and how they may be out of step with the desires of workers (Financial Times, 4/6/19).  Parental leave policy seems to be very much a front-burner issue in the U.K. these days.

The article’s points are straightforward: fathers generally want to spend more time with their kids, when they do, mothers are freed to do more paid work and the earnings differential between men and women narrows.  I’ve said the same many times over the years.  Data out of Sweden for example, a country with equal parental leave for men and women, suggest that the author may have a point.  There the workforce participation rate for women was 70% in 2017 compared to the U.S. in which it was 57%.  And the earnings differential between men and women in Sweden was 12.5% versus 15% in the U.S.

Still, the FT piece is too facile by half.  The idea that the only thing standing between men and childcare, and women and the coveted cubicle is parental leave policy is dubious at best.  The writer, Pilita Clark, actually admits as much, although I’m not sure she realizes it.
The discrepancy [in earnings] takes off after women give birth and continues to rise so that by the time a child is 12 years old, the gap is around 33 per cent.
How does Clark figure that parental leave that never covers more than a year off work, could still be affecting the choices women make when a child is 12 years old?  She doesn’t say for the good and sufficient reason that it has no such impact.

So the differences between men’s and women’s involvement in paid work and childcare are considerably more complex than parental leave policies indicate.  Now, we all want equality between the sexes and parental leave is a significant part of that.
The British government pays 26 times more to a mother on the average wage in the first year after a birth than a father, according to family researcher Duncan Fisher, one of a growing number of men calling for the scales to be balanced.
So yes, companies and governments should equalize their policies.  Fathers and mothers should get the same amounts of time off at the same pay rates.  That done, the parents can decide for themselves what they want to do with their leave.

But Clark’s omissions extend further.  She inveighs against governments giving mothers more time with the kids but never considers the possibility that that’s what mothers want.  After all, motherhood is as powerful a biological urge as there is among humans.  The hormones that connect adults to children and vice versa have a way of being obeyed.  Countless studies and sets of data demonstrate that, given the choice between staying at home with baby and returning to the gray cubicle, mothers tend strongly to opt for the former.  They do so overwhelmingly because oxytocin, beta endorphin and the like encourage them to be with and nurture their children.  They’ve been doing that for untold millennia and aren’t about to change now.  Unsurprisingly, data assembled by researchers like Dr. Catherine Hakim show most women’s preference for childcare over paid work.  They also show men’s preference for the converse, men being the resource providers that they’ve always been.

So basic biology tends to militate against the idea that men and women are interchangeable parts in the scheme of human survival.  We aren’t and never have been.  Indeed, Dr. Anna Machin stresses the fact that evolution abhors replication, i.e. too much overlap in roles.

Perhaps more important though is the role played by family courts in keeping men out of the nursery.  By now, many men have become aware of the rather extreme anti-male/pro-female bias of family courts.  In the U.K., a father’s chance of getting meaningful parenting time with his child post-divorce is somewhere between slim and none.  Even researchers like Maeb Harding who want to convince us that family courts are evenhanded end up showing that it takes a seriously dysfunctional mother for a dad to get custody of a child.

So why would a man devote himself overmuch to his child knowing that it could be taken away at any minute by a so-inclined ex and a compliant judge?  Family court reform is one of the keys to equality between the sexes.  Without it, parental leave will accomplish little.

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