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Celebration premature in NY ruling for same-sex parents




September 26, 2016

The New York State Court of Appeals recently ruled that an unmarried woman who had helped raise a child with her same-sex partner was entitled to seek parenting time in family court after the couple broke up. The woman was not a biological parent of the child. A New York Times editorial hailed this decision as an overdue and rightful expansion of the parenting rights of people in same-sex relationships.

The court based its decision in part on research that “reveals the trauma children suffer as a result of separation from a primary attachment figure — such as a de facto parent — regardless of that figure’s biological or adoptive ties to the children.” National Parents Organization agrees wholeheartedly with the Court’s recognition of the trauma children suffer when they are forcibly separated from established parental figures.

However, celebration is premature. The decision merely grants non-biological same-sex parents the right to a custody battle, like heterosexual couples. As with hetero cases, it does not establish that children will actually be granted the continuing love and guidance of both beloved parents. It will be of little value to children if, as with heterosexual couples, one parent is relegated to the role of a “visitor,” seeing the child only every other weekend or so.

The true test of whether the New York courts take the best interest of children to heart is if they begin to order shared parenting — for both hetero and same-sex couples. Shared parenting is a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time with each parent as possible following divorce or separation. It should not be ordered if a parent is unfit or violent.

Federal statistics show that shared parenting helps children in multiple ways. For instance, they have higher self-esteem, stay out of trouble, and perform better in school, while for parents it decreases custody battles and increases voluntary child support and college payments. Shared parenting legislation has recently been passed or considered in more than 20 states, including Missouri, where a law promoting shared parenting took effect in August.

“If sole custody continues to be ordered, the decision in New York will be a hollow victory,” says Ned Holstein, MD, National Parents Organization founder. “Before congratulating the courts on correcting historic wrongs, let’s see them start ordering shared parenting to fit parents, both hetero and same-sex, thus eliminating custody battles altogether.”


Shared Parenting Data

  • The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.
  • The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “… shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”
  • The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”

Single Parenting Data

According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:

  • 63% of teen suicides;
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
  • 71% of high school drop-outs;
  • 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
  • 85% of those in prison;
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children.


Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. 

A regular contributor to local and national media, Dr. Holstein is Founder and Chair of the Board of National Parents Organization. Dr. Holstein was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law, and he was previously appointed by a Massachusetts Chief Justice to a task force charged with reviewing and revising the state’s child support guidelines. 

A graduate of Harvard College, Holstein also earned a Master’s degree in psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His medical degree is from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he later served on the faculty as a teacher and researcher. 


National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bond with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. In 2014, National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws. Visit the National Parents Organization website at

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