Testimony on HB 1400, 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 bill, he will sign it, and F & F recently met with Massachusetts Governor Patrick.
Fathers & Families selected eight activists to testify in support of the 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.
Harris Allen, PHD described how he had gone from a work-at-home primary caretaker of his two children to a “visitor.”
Cheryl Quiambao described her experience as a child of divorce, and the feelings of sadness she has fought because of the loss of her father, together with the struggles of her current fiance to see his children.
Annie McQuilken portrayed the endless legal warfare the Massachusetts courts have incited between her husband and his ex-wife, compared to the peaceful resolution with shared parenting in her own previous divorce in shared parenting-friendly Colorado.
Norma Millett lamented how little she sees of her grandchildren as a result of the terrible injustices the courts have brought to her son in his divorce.
Shawn Gliklich, MD, an emergency room physician, first impressed the Committee by caring for a woman who collapsed in the hearing room, then spoke with deep emotion about the diminution of his role as a parent in the Massachusetts courts.
Finally, Attorney Deborah Sirotkin Butler spoke tartly and with sardonic humor about the mistreatment of fathers and children in the courts, winning a favorable reaction from several legislators who already knew of her work for the poor.
Afterwards, Holstein saw something he has never seen before at any legislative hearing, before any committee, on any issue: a prolonged question-and-answer dialogue on our issue. Altogether, the Fathers & Families speakers were before the committee for a full hour.
According to Holstein, the fact that they interacted with us for so long, with 50 people still waiting to testify, is impressive–“They don’t do that if they just want to sweep an issue under the rug.”
Six or seven other supporters of shared parenting spoke separately as well. Fathers & Families also submitted written testimony in support of HB 1400, and additional testimony supporting or opposing 18 other bills that were also heard on September 17.