NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION
September 3, 2015
BOSTON — National Parents Organization (NPO) backs the Massachusetts Child-Centered Family Law proposal that is receiving a great deal of support in the Massachusetts Legislature. NPO agrees with opponents that child custody reform should focus on the best interest of children. In doing so, the organization draws attention to the overwhelming amount of research showing shared parenting after divorce – a key provision of the proposal – is in the best interest of children.
“In recent years, the mounting evidence that children want and need both mom and dad in their lives after divorce now puts the matter beyond reasonable doubt. Simply put, the best interest of a child and shared parenting are one and the same in the average case,” said National Parents Organization Founder and Board Chair Ned Holstein, M.D., who served on the Massachusetts Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law – the group that drafted the legislation. “Given this research, I urge the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary to move SB.834 and HB.1207 forward as soon as possible.”
There have been several recent comprehensive reviews of decades of research on the best interest of children after separation or divorce of their parents. Among the conclusions:
· The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “…shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”
· The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”
Since the publication of these comprehensive review articles, additional research studies have continued to come in, showing the same conclusions. To give but one example in 2015:
· The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-child study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May, 2015, that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.
The Massachusetts Child-Centered Family Law proposal responds to the evidence by encouraging family courts to award at least one-third of the parenting time to each parent after divorce. Currently, the state’s courts award sole physical custody to one parent, not shared parenting, a great majority of the time after divorce.
About 50 bipartisan Massachusetts legislators serve as sponsors and co-sponsors of the proposal. The proposal was born out of recommendations from the 18 distinguished stakeholders former Gov. Patrick appointed to the Massachusetts Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law. During a July hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary,, dozens of parents detailed the negative impact the state’s child custody law has on their families and urged lawmakers to move the proposal forward. Only a few testified against the proposal, mainly representatives of the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts and the Boston Bar Association, who spoke against the measure, even though each organization had representatives on Gov. Patrick’s Working Group who, at that time, indicated approval of the proposed legislation..
“Opponents of the proposal have stated they’d like to see revisions to the state’s child custody statute that make children the top priority. The evidence shows shared parenting does exactly that. It is time Massachusetts enacts the Child-Centered Family Law so that our family courts can begin supporting what’s best for kids,” Dr. Holstein said.
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
A regular contributor to local and national media, Dr. Holstein is Founder and Chair of the Board of National Parents Organization. Dr. Holstein was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law, and he was previously appointed by a Massachusetts Chief Justice to a task force charged with reviewing and revising the state’s child support guidelines.
A graduate of Harvard College, Holstein also earned a Master’s degree in psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His medical degree is from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he later served on the faculty as a teacher and researcher.
SINGLE PARENTING VERSUS SHARED PARENTING
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Census Bureau and numerous researchers have reported alarming outcomes for the 35% of children who are raised by single parents. Yet, until now, this factor has been largely ignored in the conversation about child wellbeing.
Children raised by single parents account for:
· 63% of teen suicides;
· 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
· 71% of high school drop-outs;
· 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
· 85% of those in prison;
· 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
· 90% of homeless and runaway children.
Whether the problem is emotional disturbances of children, drug use, alcohol use, teen pregnancy, poor performance in school, trouble with the law or running with gangs, being raised by a single parent is a powerful risk factor. For many of these outcomes, single parenting is a stronger risk factor than race or poverty. Conversely, children on average do much better on all these measures if they have shared parenting. Children ardently desire shared parenting in most cases and are happier with it.
For parents, shared parenting significantly increases child support compliance, diminishes parental conflict and domestic violence and allows both parents to pursue their careers, social lives and other interests without the burden of singlehandedly raising a child.
ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION
National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The Boston-based organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bond with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. In 2014, National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org