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Kentucky: The First Domino

It’s the domino effect all over again. No, I’m not talking about the Cold War theory that, if one country became communist, then others around it inevitably would follow. I’m talking about the effect one shared parenting law in Kentucky seems to be having on the states around it.

As readers of this blog know, thanks to the National Parents Organization and the redoubtable Matt Hale, Kentucky became the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking world to enact a presumption of equal parenting into law. The new statute becomes effective on July 1. As if that weren’t enough of a landmark, it’s beginning to look like the states around Kentucky may be influenced by its success.

Certainly the news media in those states have taken note. In Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, New York, Indiana and Minnesota at least, print and broadcast media have picked up on the Kentucky story. By now, the people of those states and their elected representatives know that another state has taken the plunge and decided to actually do what’s best for kids. Kentucky now walks the walk instead of just talking the talk.


A Single Senator Stops Shared Parenting in Missouri

May 21, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The legislative session in Missouri is over and this year, unlike last year, the National Parents Organization was unable to pass its shared parenting bill, HB 1667.  That wasn’t because HB 1667 wasn’t popular with legislators, it was.  Indeed, it passed both its House committee and the House of Representatives itself.  It was then approved by the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children.  And we were reliably told that it had majority backing of the full Senate.

But it never reached the Senate floor.  Why?  Because in the final days of the session, a lone senator, Jill Schupp, threatened to filibuster until HB 1667 couldn’t be voted on.  That’s right, against a majority of House members and a majority of Senate members, Jill Schupp decided to play the role of governor and veto the bill.


The Third Wave of Opposition to Shared Parenting Crashes

May 20, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The third and final wave of objections to shared parenting identified by Prof. Edward Kruk is that, while shared parenting has been demonstrated to be the best post-divorce arrangement for kids in all but a small percentage of cases, we shouldn’t enact it as a presumption in the law on custody.  Those advancing this objection pretend that the existing standard - the best interests of children - is (a) better for kids and (b) in opposition to shared parenting.  Both pretenses are just that.

Included in that objection is the notion that judges must maintain discretion in deciding custody and parenting time because all cases are different.

Kruk buries all those claims under an avalanche of facts and common sense.

First, the best interests of the child standard is vague and indeterminate, as children’s best interests are largely undefined, lack legal consensus, and are based on speculation about future conduct. The absence of a clear definition of best interests renders the standard unworkable. Second, the standard gives judges unfettered discretion in decision making, based on their idiosyncratic biases, in an area around which they have little or no training or expertise, and is thus subject to judicial error. This discretion can result in unpredictable and inconsistent outcomes. Third, decisions based on the best interests of the child reflect a sole custody presumption and judicial bias; judges might hold stereotyped or outdated ideas about fathers’ and mothers’ roles that bias their decisions. Fourth, the discretionary best interests of the child standard sustains, intensifies, and creates conflict, and fuels litigation because of the incentive of a winner-takes-all context where such an undefined standard provides a context of anything goes. Fifth, the best interests of the child standard makes the court dependent on custody evaluations lacking an empirical foundation, as the scientific basis for child custody evaluation is hotly contested and the qualifications for becoming an expert are nebulous at best. Sixth, the views of children and parents regarding the best interests of the child, which focus on children’s needs and parents’ responsibilities to those needs, are radically different to the views of the judiciary, which are deficit-based. Seventh, with two adequate parents, the court has no basis in law or psychology for distinguishing one parent as “primary” over the other. Finally, despite the rhetoric of children’s best interests, children’s interests are largely unrepresented in the court proceedings, as a custody contest instead pits the rights of mothers against the rights of fathers (Brown, 2014; Kruk, 2013).


Parental Conflict Doesn’t Obviate Shared Parenting

May 18, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The second wave of arguments against shared parenting claims that it’s inappropriate in high-conflict divorces.  It at one point argued that evidence supporting shared parenting merely cherry-picked parents who got along well anyway and could therefore make joint care work.  The latter was disproven when parents with various levels of conflict were compared both in and out of shared parenting arrangements.  The former has also been found to be unsupported by empirical evidence.  Prof. Kruk summarizes:

There is now strong empirical evidence, however, that children can benefit from shared parenting even when their parents do not have low-conflict, cooperative relationships (Fabricius, Sokol, Diaz, & Braver, 2016; Nielsen, 2017). Shared parenting might create an incentive for parental cooperation.


Kruk Describes and then Destroys Historical Opposition to Shared Parenting

May 17, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Prof. Kruk’s article in the Special Issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage first details and then destroys the three waves of arguments against shared parenting.  At first, opponents simply denigrated fathers as uninterested in their children and only proponents of shared care because they wanted to reduce their child support obligations.  The problem with both was that subsequent research demonstrated that neither was true.  In fact, fathers most highly valued their relationships with their children, refuting the radical feminist narrative.

After those efforts failed, Kruk explains, opposition got serious, i.e. it attempted to recruit science to its anti-dad cause.  (Let me be clear that it was precisely anti-father.  Essentially everyone at the time understood that, overwhelmingly, mothers got sole or primary custody of children post-divorce.  Therefore, any attempt at sharing care was perceived as reducing mothers’ time with their children and increasing father’s.)

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