I am writing to ask your support for a platform plank endorsing the increased involvement of Massachusetts parents in the lives of their children, with a legislative initiative referred to as “shared parenting.’ Hundreds of Democrats and Independents who are members of our organization, Fathers & Families, have attended platform hearings and submitted emails to ask the Massachusetts Democratic Party to recognize the fundamental need that children have for the love of both their parents. These men and women support shared parenting because it is good for children, but I”d like to suggest that it is also good social policy and good politics.
Fathers & Families is a national non-profit with over five thousand members and supporters in Massachusetts. Our mission is to improve the lives of children by protecting their right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce, with equal rights and responsibilities for men and women. We are a family court reform organization, seeking changes that will benefit children and society.
Shared parenting means a custody arrangement after separation or divorce of parents that is flexibly tailored to the circumstances of each individual family, but which seeks to maximize the child”s time with each parent, assuming both parents are fit and that domestic violence is absent. Judicial discretion would be preserved to order sole custody when necessary, of if shared parenting were tried but failed. Child support under shared parenting would still be governed by the Commonwealth”s Child Support Guidelines.
I ask you to support shared parenting because it is good for children:
Professor of Women”s Studies Linda Nielsen cites 16 studies showing that “Kids want more shared parenting.’ (see enclosure for references)
Children with too little fathering have much higher rates of educational failure, depression or apathy, substance abuse, delinquency, gang involvement and teenage pregnancy. Shared parenting will decrease these problems.
Money does not protect children from these negative consequences of father-absence.
Shared parenting leads to greater child support compliance, additional voluntary support of children, and voluntary contributions to college education.
Shared parenting decreases the number of bitter custody battles.
I ask you to support shared parenting because it is good for women:
Women are happier when their children do well.
Women can compete more successfully in the workplace if their ex-partners take a larger role in child rearing. Many prominent feminists support shared parenting for specifically this reason. These include: former National Organization for Women president Karen DeCrow; feminist author Naomi Wolf; and Martha Burk, former Chair of the National Council of Women”s Organizations.
About 30% of soccer moms are step-mothers, whose marital relationships are strained by their husbands” emotional turmoil resulting from their painfully limited time with their kids.
I ask you to support shared parenting because it is good social policy:
Shared parenting will cost nothing to state government, yet will bring about the benefits listed above.
Shared parenting eliminates gender bias in a major area of public policy.
I ask you to support shared parenting because it is good politics:
Shared parenting is popular among all segments of the Massachusetts electorate, including rank and file women. A non-binding ballot initiative on shared parenting won 85% of the vote in 2004.
Shared parenting legislation is the most-requested policy on Governor Patrick”s website, outvoting same-sex marriage rights, environmental issues and tax issues. ( http://devalpatrick.com/issue/sharedparenting)
About one-fourth of the Legislature co-sponsored shared parenting legislation in the last session.
Governor Patrick has publicly stated that he will sign shared parenting legislation if the Legislature passes it.
The Boston Globe supported shared parenting in principle in an editorial dated February 23, 2008.
Democrats will improve their standing with men in general, and NASCAR dads (blue collar white males) in particular, almost one-third of whom are non-custodial parents. This group has tended to vote Republican in recent years, so the Democrats would stand to gain significantly by acknowledging one of the principal concerns of this demographic.
Shared parenting is becoming an important issue for same-sex couples. Non-biological parents in same-sex relationships feel their custody rights may be in danger. Fathers & Families supported the parenting rights of a non-biological lesbian mother in the SJC case of A.H. v. M.P. (Docket No. SJC-09815, brief provided on request, or at http://fathersandfamiliesorg.siteprotect.net/NEWS/Amicus_Brief_re_AH_v_MP_06.10.04_FINAL.pdf
Democrats will improve their standing with grandparents. When their children divorce or separate, many grandparents lose frequent contact with their grandchildren.
Democrats will improve their standing with soccer moms (married white females), about 30% of whom are stepmothers. This demographic has voted Republican in many recent presidential elections.
Democrats risk losing this cutting-edge issue to Republicans. Some prominent conservatives, including nationally-syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker and former Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young, are promoting the issue.
As you can see, shared parenting is a potent, progressive issue that offers a unique opportunity for Democrats: a widely popular policy that can be implemented without cost, improves the lives of children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and same-sex parents, promotes gender equality, and improves the standing of Democrats with certain constituencies that have leaned Republican.
I would be happy to meet with you or any other members of the Platform Committee who would like to explore this issue, who may have concerns about it, or who may wish to discuss the language of a shared parenting plank.
Thank you for giving this your consideration.
Ned Holstein, MD, MS
Chair of the Board