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Family Law Reform Conference Gathers Leading Researchers and Practitioners

November 19, 2014

Joe Sorge opened the Divorce Corp. Family Law Reform Conference with a call for less fighting because less fighting is good for everyone. And Ned Holstein, Founder and Chair, National Parents Organization, and Joe Sorge, Director, Divorce Corps, ended the two-day conference with the call for action.

With his usual flair for presenting complex data in a form all can grasp and understand, Joe Sorge quickly made the case for how home and work life in the United States have changed dramatically yet our family laws and our family law courts and child support guidelines have remained stuck in the past. Modern family roles and structures have evolved, yet the laws have not.

A highlight of the conference was Malin Bergstrom, PhD, a developmental psychologist with the Division of Reproductive Health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Bergstrom and her colleagues have completed a study of the well-being of every (176,000) 12-15-year-old child in Sweden in order to ascertain the effects of family structure on the children. Children in intact families perform better on a wide variety of measures of physical health, mental health, and educational outcomes than do the children of divorce. Children of divorce whose parents share their care equally do better on all those measures than do the children of single parents.

The other striking piece of her presentation was that Bergstrom stated that the legal reform came first; followed by social change. Obviously, this confirms National Parents Organization’s work and strategy.

For two packed days Joe led the family law reform faithful through presentations by leading researchers and practitioners in child custody, child support, alimony, judicial oversight, domestic violence, parental rights, children’s rights, judicial bias, and mediation. Professionals, attorneys, mediators, therapists, parents, grandparents, students, coaches, academics, and activists (many of them already National Parents Organization members) alike listened, questioned, and discussed our key issues.

  • Impact of Domestic Violence on Custody Decisions
  • Rights of Parents and Children
  • Child Custody
  • Child Support
  • Children’s Rights
  • Alimony Reform
  • Mediation vs. Litigation
  • Economic Cost of Raising Children
  • RICO Suits Against State Courts
  • Judicial Bias and Political Process
  • Money and Corruption of Family Courts

National Parents Organization interjected a little fun by hosting a reception for all conference participants Saturday night. Also, Ned Holstein, Founder and Chair, and was given the task of issuing the call to action with the final presentation on Sunday afternoon. Ned addressed the six reasons “we will absolutely, guaranteed, without any doubt whatsoever win our struggle.

  1. First, gender roles have converged in America. So what we want seems natural to most people.
  2. Second, public opinion overwhelmingly supports our core belief of parental equality.

Various polls and surveys, as well as formal research by Sanford Braver in Arizona, support this claim. And in Massachusetts, National Parents Organization mobilized hundreds of volunteers to get signatures, the result of which was a ballot question a few years ago that went before 700,000 voters. It asked whether shared physical custody of children should be the usual and customary outcome if both parents are fit and there has been no domestic violence. Over 86% of the voters said “Yes!” And by the way, you can’t get 86% of the vote unless women, as well as men, overwhelmingly support the issue.

  1. Third, as Dr. Bergstrom taught us yesterday, the research evidence supports what we most want — equality in access to our children.

2014 has been a watershed year in our research understanding of what is best for children after parental separation or divorce. Three separate groups of child development researchers and mental health practitioners have issued comprehensive reports in 2014, and in each case they have concluded, based on hundreds of research projects over several decades, that children do best on multiple measures with shared parenting. Richard Warshak’s conclusions were signed on to by 110 experts. The International Council for Shared Parenting had about 100 experts from over 20 countries, mostly Europe, and AFCC, a large organization with its greatest strength in North America concluded similarly. Moreover, yesterday you heard Dr. Bergstrom’s presentation, in which she taught us that shared parenting, which is practiced widely in Sweden, produces better outcomes for children than single parenting. Finally, in 2014, Jennifer McIntosh retracted her claims that the Australian experience of shared parenting was negative for children.

  1. The fourth reason is that America truly is a democracy. An energized public will always defeat special interests.
  2. The fifth reason, believe it or not, is The LAW. Because what happens in family courts today is not the Law. As Ron Palmer taught us yesterday, the real law is that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights, with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is the REAL law.

Right about now is when someone says, “Those people only care about their adult rights, they don’t care about the children.”

So I want to make it clear that I believe fervently in children’s rights — most of all, the right to the loving care of two fit parents. If this is not a natural right, then what is? No better substitute has ever been found for children than two loving, fit parents — not foster care, not the kibbutz, not the orphanage, not group homes, and certainly not judges and social workers, who will not be there for your child when she is running a fever and vomiting at 3:00 am. The only exception is for the small minority of children whose parents are clearly warped.

  1. THE SIXTH REASON I KNOW WE WILL WIN IS THE MOST POWERFUL REASON. The power of truth is on our side. As Dr. Childress taught us, children are DESIGNED to bond to two parents. They are WIRED that way. They NEED us for their very survival. And we will not fail them. “

In response, other states are contacting us and joining with National Parents Organization. We are solidifying our role as the one national voice engaging state affiliates and volunteers.

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