Dr. Holstein’s Spoken Testimony in Support of Fathers & Families’ Shared Parenting Bill

Fathers & Families’ Shared Parenting Bill HB 1400 was heard by the  Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature on Thursday (9/17). The bill would establish a presumption of shared legal and shared physical custody following divorce, where a family court determines that both parents are fit to care for their children.

Through Fathers & Families’ efforts, over one-quarter of the Massachusetts Legislature has expressed clear, public support for our Shared Parenting Bill, many of them signing on as co-sponsors. We gathered thousands of signatures to place shared parenting on the 2004 Massachusetts ballot and led a successful campaign for its passage, winning 86% of the vote. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told the Legislature that if they pass Fathers & Families’ Shared Parenting, he will sign it, and F & F recently met with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Fathers & Families selected eight activists to testify in support of Fathers & Families’ shared parenting bill Thursday. Led by Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S., Founder and Chair of the Board of Fathers & Families, the group spoke movingly about the need for shared parenting. Afterwards the Committee took the highly unusual step of holding a prolonged question-and-answer dialogue on our issue.

Below is the spoken testimony in favor of HB 1400 submitted by Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S., Founder and Chair of the Board of Fathers & Families. Holstein’s written testimony can be seen here.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Madame Chair for the opportunity of testifying today in support of HB 1400, An Act Relative to Shared Parenting.  This bill has been sponsored by Representative Colleen Garry, to whom we express our deepest appreciation for her steadfast support.

Fathers and Families has approximately 5,000 Massachusetts members, of whom somewhere between 25% and 40% are women.  Fathers and Families seeks to improve the lives of children by protecting their right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We are the fastest growing movement in Massachusetts, and are probably the only Massachusetts non-profit with 80% revenue growth in 2009 compared to 2008.

Our position is incredibly simple: we love our kids, we are fit parents, and we simply want to be allowed to help raise them.

Everybody knows it”s not happening now.

Everybody knows kids want this – they are longing for their dads.

Everybody knows kids do better when they have shared parenting.

So why isn”t this happening?

If you don”t like our bill, then tell us what your solution is to the pervasive problem of fatherlessness.

Some people say they don”t like the rebuttable presumption in our bill.  If so, again, tell us what your solution is.

We have shown that:

It”s time to do something about this problem. Thank you once again for the opportunity of testifying in support of HB 1400.

•    86% of Massachusetts voters endorsed joint physical custody as the usual and preferred outcome if both parents are fit and if there is an absence of domestic violence
•    Shared parenting is the most popular issue on the Governor”s website
•    Shared parenting was endorsed in principle by the Boston Globe
•    Shared parenting was the most-requested plank in the Platform of the Democratic Party this year
•    Research supports that shared parenting is best for kids

Our members are getting impatient. We are talking about our children and our grandchildren.  The childhood of their kids is passing before their eyes. Our members are fired up, ready to go. It”s time to act.

Opponents will now present a series of myths. It is actually so simple – we just want to be allowed to be loving parents.

The myths you will hear are many.  When you hear them, keep in mind that HB 1400

•    Does NOT limit judicial discretion
•    Does NOT mandate 50/50 parenting or any other specific parenting schedule
•    Does NOT increase parental conflict or re-litigation; HB 1400 actually will DECREASE these problems
•    Does NOT diminish protections against domestic violence
•    Does NOT increase transitions from house to house – when the children transfer, they just stay longer
•    Does NOT discard the best interest of the child standard
•    Does NOT change the determination of child support – it would still be determined by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines

If people tell you otherwise about HB 1400 they are misrepresenting our bill or haven”t read it.

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