November 21, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here’s a nice plug for equal or substantially equal parenting (Herald Online, 11/21/14). Of course it’s a good plug because it was written by Armin Brott who’s long been one of the most intelligent, best-informed commenters on what’s best for kids when their parents divorce. Indeed, his book, co-authored with the equally excellent Ross Parke, Throwaway Dads, was one of several that, in 1998, opened my eyes to the reality of fathers and the many barriers this culture places between them and their kids. So of course Brott’s article is sound and informative. And of course it backs equal parenting.
Brott’s in the role of newspaper advice-giver in the tradition of Ann Landers. His column is “Ask Mr. Dad.” Here’s what one woman asked him:
I’m getting divorced, and the only thing my soon-to-be ex-husband and I agree on is that we want what’s best for our children. He’s been talking about joint custody and co-parenting, and I’m leaning in that direction. But a friend of mine who went through a nasty divorce a few years ago says that joint custody never works out and that I should go for full custody. What do you suggest?
To which Brott offers not only sound advice, but some of the social science on shared parenting, all of which is good for readers — not just the letter-writer — to know.
At the risk of sounding harsh, my first suggestion is that you spend less time with your friend. She might have had a bad experience, but that has nothing to do with you.
The fact that you and your nearly ex are putting your children’s needs first tells me that you’re going to prove her wrong.
Assuming that there’s no history of violence or abuse — I’m sure you would have mentioned it if there were — it’s almost always in the best interests of the children to spend as much time as possible with each of their parents. The best way to accomplish that goal is with “shared parenting,” sometimes called co-parenting…
Shared parenting benefits everyone, Wake Forest University Professor Linda Nielsen says. She cites research showing that children in shared parenting situations do better academically, emotionally, psychologically and socially. As young adults, these children have better relationships with both of their parents than those who lived primarily with one parent (again, usually Mom).
Shared parenting benefits the parents as well. Former couples who share parenting are overwhelmingly happier with their custody arrangements than those who don’t. They fight less and are more satisfied with the overall outcome of their break-up.
Yep, shared parenting benefits both kids and their parents. Those facts alone should long ago have carried the day as the default position for child custody orders, but of course they haven’t. An unholy trinity of uneducated judges, uninformed laws and a sexist culture militates against what the overwhelming body of social science demonstrates — that everyone benefits from shared parenting.
Brott goes on to squelch a couple of inaccurate perceptions of shared parenting. The first is that it means parents must spend too much time interacting with a former spouse whom they dislike and with whom they don’t get along, resulting in high levels of conflict.
That does not mean that you have to spend huge amounts of time with your ex or that you have to agree on everything. A study that followed 120 shared divorced-and-co-parenting couples for 20 years found:
- Half of the couples were “cooperative but not friends,” meaning that they made decisions together but didn’t have much contact with each other.
- Twenty percent were “dissolved duos” who cooperated with each other but had no other contact.
- Ten percent were “perfect pals” who saw each other frequently.
- Only 20 percent were what the researchers called “angry foes.”
Then there’s the tired old trope of radical feminists opposed to equal parental rights.
Some critics of shared parenting — such as your friend — have claimed that it’s used as a way for one parent (usually Dad) to decrease child support payments. There is absolutely no reliable data to support that claim.
In fact, mothers who share parenting with their ex are “just as satisfied as the sole residence mothers with the money they were receiving from the father,” says Nielsen.
It’s always uplifting to see good sense written on the subject of shared parenting, and there are few better than Armin Brott to do so.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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