Fathers & Families’ Shared Parenting Bill HB 1400 is currently before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature. The bill would establish a presumption of shared legal and shared physical custody following divorce when a family court has determined 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 our shared parenting bill, he will sign it, and F & F recently met with Patrick.
Through our efforts and the efforts of our allies, shared parenting was the most-requested plank in the Platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the most popular issue on the Governor”s website in 2009. Shared parenting was endorsed in principle by the editorial board of the Boston Globe in 2008.
HB 1400 will be voted on by the Judiciary Committee on or around May 7. Fathers & Families is organizing its Massachusetts members to lobby the Committee members to pass the bill. If you are interested in volunteering, please click here.
To learn more about HB 1400 and Shared Parenting, see the spoken testimony of Fathers & Families’ founder Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. below, or his written testimony here. Also, see Dr. Holstein’s Boston Globe column Where’s Dad?.
Together with you in the love of our children,
Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families
Deputy Director, Fathers & Families
Spoken testimony in favor of HB 1400 by Fathers & Families’ Ned Holstein, M.D.
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:
• 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 was the most popular issue on the Governor”s website in 2009
• 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
The strongest argument for this bill is that it is the best post-divorce arrangement for children. Prior to divorce, the child has two parents. Research shows that the child attaches equally strongly to both parents at the age of approximately six months. The attachments to both parents remain equally strong, even when one parent is the primary caretaker and the other parent has limited interaction with the child, as long as the amount of interaction exceeds a rather modest threshold level.
Disruption of attachment to either parent causes impairment in the psychosocial well-being of children. The symptoms by which these impairments are manifested vary by age. In infants and young children, there is sadness, depression, crying, anger, sleep disruption, aggression and other symptoms. From ages 5 to 12, the manifestations include sadness, anxiety, anger and various forms of acting out. From puberty to adulthood, the manifestations include substance abuse, depression and suicide, gang involvement, anger, violence, educational under-achievement and drop-out, and teenage pregnancy among girls.
All of these assertions have been amply documented by research. Thus, before divorce the child has strong psychological attachments to both parents. Shared legal and shared physical custody of the children post-divorce comes closest to maintaining the relationships to which the child is accustomed.
Fathers and Families’ 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.
It”s time to do something about this problem. Thank you once again for the opportunity of testifying in support of HB 1400.