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The Massachusetts Legislature’s sweeping reform of the criminal statutes does well to focus on the prevention of crime, but it lacks a simple measure proven to decrease crime: shared parenting, versus sole custody, after parents divorce.

In the spring of 2016, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a shared parenting bill written by a blue-ribbon Task Force appointed by former Governor Deval Patrick, but the Senate did not act on the bill before the Legislature adjourned. We can help solve our high crime rates with shared parenting. We have known this for years, but have not acted – so Massachusetts lawmakers should enact the Task Force’s bill now.

This may seem like a different matter altogether. But to understand the connection between divorce law and crime, first examine a straightforward fact – 85 percent of prisoners were raised in single-parent households without fathers. There is abundant evidence supporting the idea that fatherlessness is a potent cause of crime. People who have grown up in high crime neighborhoods know this well. Denzel Washington, for instance, just reminded us of the crisis of fatherlessness as the root cause of crime in his childhood neighborhoods.

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A new bill at the state capitol could impact the way custody is decided in divorce proceedings.

“It’s absolutely soul crushing to have all those moments lost with my kids, ” explained Ron Holm of Kansas City, Kansas.

Holm said his divorce is why he is hoping for change.

“I went from being a stay at home parent to every other weekend and Wednesday night,” added Holm.

Holm works for the National Parents Organization-Kansas Chapter. The group is pushing for changes in the way custody is given during divorce cases.

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Proponents stood up and gave testimony in favor of the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring the state more in line with 50/50 parenting after a divorce.

"For a year, I tried to fight to get into a courtroom to be able to explain my and be able to see my again. For a year, I watched my kids fade from my life," said one father Paul Swaneson.

Members of the National Parents Organization said clear and convincing evidence should be the standard in all custody cases before judges, and say nearly equal time with parents is in the best interest for children.

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Divorced parents spoke Tuesday at state capitols in Kansas and Missouri, sharing the benefits of equal time with their kids. Moms and dads are hoping to change the laws in custody decisions.

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Divorcing parents who don’t agree on custody would share time with children equally by default – unless a court finds clear evidence that they shouldn’t – under a Kansas bill.

Similar measures are cropping up in states across the country as part of a push to promote involvement by fathers and co-parenting.

Proponents say the measures are better for children. They point to research showing benefits for children raised by two parents. But critics contend creating a presumption of equal time discourages parents from reaching their own agreement.

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Divorcing parents who don’t agree on custody would share time with children equally by default – unless a court finds clear evidence that they shouldn’t – under a Kansas bill.

Similar measures are cropping up in states across the country as part of a push to promote involvement by fathers and co-parenting.

Proponents say the measures are better for children. They point to research showing benefits for children raised by two parents. But critics contend creating a presumption of equal time discourages parents from reaching their own agreement.

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The commonwealth is at a crossroads. It is a crossroads of opportunity, truth, and what’s actually best for children and families, intact or divorced/separated. Shared parenting (or shared/joint physical custody) has been presented to Virginia’s General Assembly several times over the past decade, but never has it been more timely.

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Maryland family courtrooms could become a happier place for Maryland children – if state lawmakers act on an opportunity to reform child custody laws. As a recent Washington Post editorial highlighted, Maryland lawmakers are considering recommendations from a special commission that studied child custody decisions.

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The chance to brighten the lives of children through reform of custody laws has rightly become a major issue in Maryland.

As a recent Washington Post editorial highlighted, Maryland lawmakers are considering recommendations from a special commission that studied child custody decisions.

The news hits at a time when, according to a Post article, 25 states have considered laws supportive of shared parenting after divorce in the past year. Plus, a handful of states have passed such laws in the past, and several others have come very close to doing so.

This ferment is due to the little-known fact that the family courts in most states still create custody battles in which the victorious parent becomes the “custodial” parent, and the loser becomes the every-other-weekend parent.

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Being cared for and loved by two parents is the optimum situation for any child. In fact, it should be every child's right. Unfortunately, many states in the U.S. fall short of protecting the rights of American children when parents divorce.

Surprisingly, not one state in the union was able to pass with flying colors, Massachusetts earning a mediocre C-plus from The National Parents Organization when it considered the status of how and when marital children of divorce are allocated time spent with both parents. New York, received an F, with no statutes in place for encouraging shared parenting, relying instead on the less powerful legal precedent of Braiman vs. Braiman.

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The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates, once was a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.

Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states considering bills this year that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption — even when parents disagree.

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The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates, once was a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.

Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states considering bills this year that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption — even when parents disagree.

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The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates,was once a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.

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National Parents Organization thanks The Washington Post for shining a light on efforts to move shared parenting from the exception to the norm following divorce and separation, and encourages lawmakers throughout the nation to support the trend.

The Post’s Dec. 12 front page article, headlined “More than 20 states in 2017 considered laws to promote shared custody of children after divorce,” revealed about half our nation’s state legislatures this year have considered bills supportive of shared parenting, rather than the sole custody status quo. The Post included a map showing the 25 states that have considered proposals. A handful of states already have laws supportive of shared parenting.

“Many of the legislative gains recently have been propelled by the National Parents Organization, a group with roots in the fathers’ rights movement but now a broadened focus on children’s rights and parental equality,” the article said.

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The legal push for custody arrangements is in large part a result of years of lobbying by fathers' rights advocates who feel alienated from their children and burdened by child-support obligations. These groups, including the National Parents Organization, are gaining new traction with support from across the political spectrum, as more lawmakers respond to this appeal for gender equality and, among some conservatives, the frustration of a newly emboldened constituency of men who say they are being shortchanged.

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The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates,was once a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.

Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states considering bills this year that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption – even when parents disagree.

Kentucky this year passed a law to make joint physical custody and equal parenting time standard for temporary orders while a divorce is being finalized. Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill last year to presume equal time for child custody plans, but it was vetoed by the governor. And in Michigan, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make equal parenting time the starting point for custody decisions.

The legal push for custody arrangements is in large part a result of years of lobbying by fathers’ rights advocates who feel alienated from their children and burdened by child-support obligations. These groups, including the National Parents Organization, are gaining new traction with support from across the political spectrum, as more lawmakers respond to this appeal for gender equality and, among some conservatives, the frustration of a newly emboldened constituency of men who say they are being shortchanged.

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The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates, was once a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.

Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states this year considering bills that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption — even when parents disagree.

Many of the legislative gains recently have been propelled by the National Parents Organization, a group with roots in the fathers’ rights movement but now a broadened focus on children’s rights and parental equality. 

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The latest information on North Dakota family courts comes from the organization Leading Women for Shared Parenting (LW4SP).

It teaches two important lessons. First, whether children maintain meaningful relationships with both parents, post-divorce is mostly a question of which judge decides the case.

Second, North Dakotans need to take with a huge grain of salt what family lawyers and the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND) say about child custody in the state.

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Each year, state family courts create over an estimated 10,000 single-parent children because of the courts’ decisions to strip custody from divorcing parents. The most common parenting plan for non-custodial parents calls for every other weekend visitation, meaning tens of thousands of Michigan children will never experience one of their two parents dropping them off at school or packing them a lunch. Those duties are assigned entirely to the other parent.

Fortunately, we have a chance to preserve children’s relationships with both parents and reform our family court system. HB 4691 changes current law by creating a starting point of joint custody and substantially equal parenting time in divorce situations.

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Doing the right thing isn’t always popular. But when it is, as it is with a current family court reform bill moving through the Michigan House, there should be no stopping us.

The latest scientific research shows that shared parenting — where children spend as much time as possible with each parent — is in the best interest of children after divorce or separation. And a recent poll conducted by the Market Resource Group showed that a whopping 84 percent of registered voters in Michigan support joint custody and equal parenting time after divorce or separation, as long as there is no history of abuse, addiction or mental illness.

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Doing the right thing isn’t always popular. But when it is, as it is with a current family court reform bill moving through the Michigan House, there should be no stopping us.

The latest scientific research shows that shared parenting—where children spend as much time as possible with each parent—is in the best interest of children after divorce or separation. And a recent poll conducted by the Market Resource Group showed that a whopping 84% of registered voters in Michigan support joint custody and equal parenting time after divorce or separation, as long as there is no history of abuse, addiction or mental illness.

This poll is a wake-up call for policymakers. The status quo is not working.

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With the transition into fall, a new political season heats up — the legislative pre-game. Virginia’s lawmakers are starting to map out plans for what they hope to accomplish when the state legislature reconvenes. Given this timing, we would like to call attention to critical facts on child well being:

During child custody battles in Virginia, and in nearly every other state, judges hold the “best interests of the child” as the standard when assessing parents’ claims. But all too often, courts use old-fashioned and outdated gender roles when interpreting these “best interests of the child” standards and ultimately determining custody.

The result: Roughly 80 percent of the time, courts award sole custody to mothers. Aside from the increased risk factors to which children raised by just one parent are subjected (school dropouts, teen pregnancy, teen suicides, etc.), there is clearly an imbalance when it comes to custody decisions. Mounting, undeniable and empirical evidence proves that shared parenting — a flexible arrangement where children spend as much time as possible with each parent after a divorce or separation — better serves children.

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