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With National Parental Alienation Awareness Day falling this week, two Alabama mayors once again made national news by declaring this week, April 23-29, National Parental Alienation Prevention Week - and wouldn't it be wonderful if this could be the last Parental Alienation Prevention Week? Then, we could celebrate a much more joyous occasion, National Happy Children Week, perhaps.

What is "Parental Alienation?" Imagine two loving parents, but they don't get along, and they divorce. Sometimes, a child who previously loved the parent now turns against him or her, and professes to hate the parent. We've all seen this, unfortunately.

We must protect children from the brainwashing that produces this tragic result, which often has lifelong consequences. With that in mind, I'd like to extend a big thank you to Mayor Woody Jacobs of Cullman, Mayor Hollie Cost of Montevallo and the Alabama Family Rights Association for bringing attention to the issue and its consequences for children, the innocent victims.

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“Children are now more likely to see both parents regularly after a divorce, which is a huge win for the children of Kentucky considering research consistently shows shared parenting is in the best interest of children when their parents divorce,” said Matt Hale, Chairman of National Parents Organization of Kentucky. “Plus, parents are no longer in the high-conflict winner win all and loser lose all situation.”

HB 492 was initiated by National Parents Organization and sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Representatives Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, and Robby Mills, R-Henderson. Petrie; Hale and Dr. Ryan Schroeder, University of Louisville Sociology Department chairman, testified supporting the law.

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According to the National Parents Organization, a nonprofit that supports family court reform, 24 states are considering or recently passed bills that embrace parental equality if both parents are fit and there has been no domestic violence.

Matt Hale, chairman of the Kentucky affiliate of the National Parents Organization, said shared parenting is not a single, clearly defined concept. States that have adopted legislation have differed in how they apply shared parenting. Recent states to pass legislation include Missouri, which doesn’t require 50/50 sharing but encourages involvement by both parents, and Kentucky, where the governor recently signed a bill establishing a presumption of shared parenting and 50/50 custody in temporary custody cases where there is little likelihood of abuse and neglect.

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Earlier this year, The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s MSNBC show “On The Record” as part of a panel discussing the Women’s March.  To be clear, while the Women’s March was an amazing event for a host of reasons, this article is not about that March.  It is about the unfortunate, inaccurate and sexist comments made by Ms. Parker while discussing the Women’s March.  For some reason, Ms. Parker felt it appropriate to suddenly state, “men don’t have the attention span to pull something like this off.”  (I am pretty sure Martin Luther King, Jr. was male, and I seem to remember him organizing some kind of March, but I digress.)  When the rest of the panel expressed disagreement with her comment, Ms. Parker unfortunately doubled down by saying, “Well, you know…what [divorced] men do is just run off, get married again and have more kids.”

The fact that she was comfortable making these statements on national television says a lot by itself.  Moreover, these comments are ultimately not helpful to the many men and women who are working very hard to achieve gender equality.   To be clear, women have faced (and continue to face) their share of sexist comments.  Those comments are as equally inaccurate and unhelpful as Ms. Parker’s comments about men during the Women’s March.  This op-ed focuses on how Ms. Parker’s comments are indicative of a larger, systemic issue in our society, and that we must overcome that kind of divisive rhetoric for all our sakes.

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Today’s child custody law, which favors the antiquated breadwinner/caregiver model, is far from reflective of today’s families. Both moms and dads desire to be hands-on parents as well as career-oriented. And a growing body of research shows that children desperately need and want equal access to both parents, not the current status quo of sole custody, when their parents divorce or separate.

Thankfully, Missouri legislators are currently considering legislation that embraces parental equality and encourages our state’s judges to award shared parenting, a flexible arrangement where children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent.

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Monday, Gov. Matt Bevin signed a revised law affecting temporary child-custody orders — the starting point for divorces. Kentucky’s House and Senate unanimously approved the law, which creates a presumption of joint custody and equal parenting time.

The new law, House Bill 492, answers many Kentucky children’s prayers. The Easter bunny is bringing children a better chance to see both parents after a divorce.

Children in married families enjoy both their parents. Before the new law, children in divorced families enjoyed whichever parent the court picked (primary custody). These children may be allowed a short visit with the other parent.

However, the new law encourages a better arrangement called shared parenting. In shared parenting, children get to see both parents equally. Instead of a single parent winning, the children do.

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Kentucky Governor Bevin signed a family court reform bill into law on Monday, April 10, bringing Kentucky a step closer to making shared parenting in instances of divorce the norm in the state.

The bill, House Bill 492, received unanimous support in both the House (voted 97-0) and Senate (38-0), signaling a long overdue change in our family court's approach to awarding custody in instances of divorce. The new law is also supported by an overwhelming amount of research showing it is in a child's best interest to have as close to equal time with both parents in instances of divorce, particularly early on in the process.

"Children are now more likely to see both parents regularly after a divorce, which is a huge win for the children of Kentucky considering research consistently shows shared parenting is in the best interest of children when their parents divorce," said Matt Hale, Chair of National Parents Organization of Kentucky. "Plus, parents are no longer in the high-conflict winner win all and loser lose all situation."

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The gender pay gap—women earn, on average, 79 cents for every dollar a typical man makes—will not be an easy issue to solve. Contrary to logic, the growth of women in managerial roles hasn’t done much to break down pay disparities between men and women, and diversity initiatives, while effective in boosting the percentage of female employees at a company, often don’t go far enough in ensuring they’re compensated equally.

The pay gap is most pronounced among married women with children (it’s often referred to as “the motherhood penalty”). The total failure of federal and corporate policies to support working mothers means that the outmoded idea that a successful career and family life are mutually exclusive still often manifests itself in a woman’s salary. Introducing comprehensive paid-leave policies is a critical step forward, but to Ned Holstein, a physician and the founder of the National Parents Organization (NPO), it doesn’t fully account for everyone affected by unequal pay policies—specifically, mothers who are separated or divorced from their partners.

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Florida’s alimony laws were written when women had little economic power, when divorce was uncommon, and cohabiting was scandalous. Those days are long gone, but the old-fashioned alimony laws — favoring permanent alimony, until death — linger.

The laws cause immense hardship for those who must support an ex-spouse until he dies or she dies, even for marriages of fewer than 10 years and even to healthy women who begin collecting at 33 years old.

Current alimony law in Florida is emotionally and financially harmful to many families. As an example, many couples who wish to tie the knot are forgoing marriage because, under current Florida law, income from the “new” spouse can go toward alimony payments of the ex-spouse.

The current alimony laws are unfair, not just to the payers but to their children, their new spouses — and even the recipients, who are told never move on with their lives, and who remain on lifetime welfare. The public thinks it’s unfair — and so do most of Florida’s legislators. Twice now, once in 2013, and again in 2016, Florida legislators have voted to update the laws with new limits and plenty of room for judges to make decisions in unusual cases. Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill both times.

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Since 1987, we have celebrated Women’s HistoryMonth in March. Described in Wikipedia, “Women‘s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.” Women have fought against traditional roles that society imposed upon them and fought for rights granted to men. As we honor women’s success in the march towards gender equality, it is important to highlight that areas of inequality remain in our society. Specifically, and perhaps shockingly to those not familiar with divorce and child custody, much remains to be done in reforming Virginia Family Courts, which sadly remain a bastion of outmoded and biased thinking. This leads to destructive outcomes not only for parents, but also, more devastatingly, for children.

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In 1984, President Reagan issued a proclamation designating March 21 as National Single Parents Day, and in doing so, he stated, “Single parents can and do provide children with the financial, physical, emotional, and social support they need to take their places as productive and mature citizens.  With the active interest and support of friends, relatives and local communities, they can do even more to raise their children in the best environment possible.”

Today, evidence showing shared parenting – a flexible arrangement where children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent – is in the best interest of children is overwhelming. Child development experts published by the American Psychological Association were clear in their 2014 consensus report: “Shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages.”

To honor the intent of National Single Parents Day, government officials who value families must do more to support and protect relationships with both parents.

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Missouri lawmakers have the opportunity to improve children's educational achievements, decrease their use of drugs, and improve their overall health and adjustment without any cost to the taxpayer by passing SB 377 and HB 724 into law. With these benefits to hundreds of thousands of Missouri children in mind, National Parents Organization urges legislators to immediately schedule hearings for the proposal with the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee.

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"Passage of this bill will work to ensure that children receive the consistent love and care of not one, but both parents after separation or divorce," said Robert Franklin, who chairs National Parents Organization's Texas affiliate and also serves on the organization's national board. "We can't afford to allow our broken family court system to continue with the sole custody status quo -- our children can't be deprived of either parent any longer. Thank you to Rep. James White, for recognizing this pressing need by sponsoring this crucial legislation."

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But Alan Frisher, chair of the National Parents Organization of Florida, called “the concept of permanent alimony … outdated in today’s society.”

“Alimony recipients must take some responsibility to earn a living after divorce in this day and age,” he said.

The 2017 bills “would provide predictability and consistency for all, plus, divorcing spouses could settle their financial differences out of court versus spending countless dollars on wasteful litigation,” Frisher added.

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Get ready for a rumble: Lawmakers will again tackle the sticky issue of alimony in the 2017 Legislative Session.

Companion bills filed in the House and Senate aim to overhaul state alimony law to toughen the standards by which alimony is granted and changed. That’s despite unsuccessful tries in the last few years.

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While this progress is encouraging, unfortunately there is much ground to make up. Recently the National Parents Organization Shared Parenting Report Card revealed that, nationwide, the custody laws in the U.S. do a poor job of promoting shared parenting. These developments coincide with the publication of a study in Sweden that shows the benefits of shared parenting. Last month, researchers found that children who spend time living with both separated parents are less stressed than those who live with just one.

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According to a recent analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts, there have not been any significant reforms to state laws on custody arrangements for more than 40 years. In 1970, the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act established five criteria to determine the “best interests” of the child. Groups like the National Parents Organization have rallied repeatedly for reforms that respect a child’s right to be nurtured by both parents.

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Florida’s alimony laws were written in a day when women had little economic power, divorce was uncommon, and cohabiting was scandalous. Those days are long gone, but the old-fashioned alimony laws – favoring permanent alimony, until death – linger on.

Current law causes immense hardship for those who must support an ex-spouse until he dies or she dies, even for marriages of less than 10 years, even to healthy spouses who begin collecting at 33 years old. Hard to believe, but true.

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According to a recent analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts, there have not been significant reforms to state laws on custody arrangements for more than 40 years. In 1970, the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act established five criteria to determine the “best interests” of the child. Groups like the National Parents Organization have advocated for reforms that respect a child’s right to be nurtured by both parents.

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Over the past three years, nearly 35 states have considered measures that would change laws that govern which parent receives legal custody of a child following divorce or separation.

While this progress is encouraging, unfortunately there is much ground to make up. Recently the National Parents Organization’s Shared Parenting Report Card revealed that, nationwide, the custody laws in the U.S. do a poor job or promoting shared parenting. These developments coincide with the publication of a study in Sweden that shows the benefits of shared parenting. Last month, researchers found that children that spend time living with both separated parents are less stressed than those that live with just one.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, researchers examined national data from nearly 150,000 12- and 15-year-old students in either 6th or 9th grade and studied their psychosomatic health problems, including sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, headaches and stomachaches, feeling tense, sad or dizzy. They found that kids living with both parents reported significantly fewer problems than children in sole-custody arrangements.

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Most children of divorced parents who are not locked in conflict do best if they have plenty of time with each of their parents. Nevertheless laws and habits in family courts often leave these children with little access to one of their parents. Dan Deuel does a good job explaining how an ordinary citizen can get effectively involved in changing laws that do not serve families well.

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THIS NEW YEAR is off to a remarkable start. With hundreds of rallies across the country, we know there are a variety of reasons people are tired of injustice, inequality, imbalance, and discrimination.

In our work to reform Virginia’s family courts, we certainly empathize with the emotions and goals of the marchers. Sadly, our family courts remain unchanged from a 1950s dynamic of “women stay home, men stay at work.”

This mindset has led to the status quo of sole child custody after divorce or separation versus shared parenting — a flexible arrangement where a child spends as close to equal time as possible with each parent.

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The National Parents Organization, a group that “seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers”, is coming out in favor of new alimony reform legislation currently making it’s way through the Florida legislature.

The latest alimony reform bill would allow for more predictability in the Judge’s decision making it easier for the respective parties to financially plan for their lives following divorce but removes a controversial 50-50 child sharing component which drew Governor Rick Scott’s veto pen last year.

“The concept of permanent alimony is outdated in today’s society – alimony recipients must take some responsibility to earn a living after divorce in this day and age,” said Alan Frisher, Chair of National Parents Organization of Florida. “This welcome change would provide predictability and consistency for all, plus, divorcing spouses could settle their financial differences out of court versus spending countless dollars on wasteful litigation.”

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For juridical delicacy, arguably few matters match child custody, and just last year, Missouri’s lawmakers acted to clarify and refine procedures involving that hot-button topic by passing House Bill No. 1550, generally known as just HB 1550.

One problem. As in most legislation, legalese shrouds the nuances and niceties of HB 1550.

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