By Daniel Sabbatelli, Member, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Massachusetts
July 24, 2014
The calendar declares Sunday, July 27, as National Parents Day — a day that a Congressional Resolution established for “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.” However, considering every single day our family courts fail to treat all parents as equal, the holiday feels contrived.
Contrary to common belief, shared parenting — where both parents are fully engaged in their children’s lives — is rarely ordered inside our nation’s family courtrooms. In reality, unequal child custody arrangements continue as the norm — despite federal statistics and research showing children are more likely to succeed when both parents, compared to one parent, play a significant role in their lives.
Concerns surrounding parental inequality in child custody arrangements are compounded by federal statistics. A rapidly increasing number of U.S. children, nearly 30 percent, are growing up in family structures where their parents do not live together. An overwhelming majority of these children live with their mothers, and the absence of shared parenting has taken its toll. The Center for Disease Control, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of the Census report that children whose lives lack the influence of both parents account for a majority of teen suicides, juveniles in state-operated institutions, high school dropouts, children in chemical abuse centers, youth in prison, children who exhibit behavioral disorders and homeless and runaway children.
In addition to statistics, social science researchers consistently support parental equality in the family courts. Take a University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center study published earlier this year by the American Psychological Association, for example. The report, “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report,” was led by Dr. Richard Warshak, signed by 110 eminent authorities throughout the world and concluded, “A broad consensus of accomplished researchers and practitioners agree that, in normal circumstances, the evidence supports shared residential arrangements for children under 4 years of age whose parents live apart from each other.”
Statistics and research aside, parental equality fits the modern family. Gender roles have converged with time. Mothers have grown more career-focused through the years, and fathers are increasingly playing active roles in the daily care of their children. Now, it’s time to bring our family court practices up to date.
This we know: Shared parenting gives children what they most want and need, which is the continued loving care of both parents. With this in mind, I urge others to support law reform that could bring parental equality and allow more children to experience the constant, loving care of both of their parents.
We are close to securing shared parenting in Massachusetts. I am asking all Massachusetts members to attend upcoming meetings and to learn how you can speak with your state senator and representative. Bring family and friends.
Now is our time. Join in for your children.
Dan Sabbatelli is a long time National Parents Organization member who fought for time with his three girls. In spite of the Massachusetts family courts, Dan has been a major influence in his girls’ lives and he has paid dearly to have substantial time with them. His reward is three beautiful daughters who love him for being their anchor.