Press Releases

National Parents Organization Welcomes Petra Maxwell as Executive Director

May 11, 2018


National Parents Organization is thrilled to announce that Petra Maxwell, JD, is its new executive director.

“I am looking forward to taking on the challenge of ensuring that our legal system is more responsive to the true needs of children and parents after divorce. Unfortunately, many states still have antiquated laws about child custody and child support that have the effect of unfairly punishing the non-custodial parent. In the end, the people that are hurt the most are the children because they need both parents in their lives,” Maxwell said. “I am excited by the mission of National Parents Organization and its potential to impact hundreds of thousands of people through its mission.”

Ned Holstein, MD, the founder and board chair of National Parents Organization, said: “I speak for everyone involved with National Parents Organization and family court reform in saying we are elated to welcome Petra. With her experience and dedication to our mission, I’m confident National Parents Organization will rocket to new heights under her leadership.”

After graduating from Harvard Law School, Maxwell spent the early days of her career as a Policy Associate for the Mayor of Chicago. From there, she founded and led a 24-hour, volunteer-based grass roots nonprofit, First Defense Legal Aid, benefitting Chicago residents in need of free legal defense services after arrest. There, she drafted and secured passage for Illinois legislation to protect the legal rights of juveniles in custody, winning several awards for her work.

After moving to New York City in 1997, Maxwell continued to lead and provided legal counsel to youth development and social service nonprofit organizations. Her work on behalf of such organizations led to her appointment by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to work on key initiatives to improve the State’s partnership with its nonprofit organizations. Among her achievements were the creation of the NY State-wide Prequalification System for nonprofits, and the reshaping of contract procedures for the New York State Council on the Arts in order to improve efficiency of services and payments to grantees dependent on State support.

Maxwell’s personal experiences played a role in her decision to join National Parents Organization.

“I am a divorced mother of a teenager. But our son was very young when my ex-husband and I were first divorced. Because my son’s father was focused on his career, and because there was a legal presumption in NY that I, as the mother of a toddler, would be the custodial parent, I had my son for roughly 75% of the time. My son is truly my greatest joy in life, but my career took a nosedive during the early period after our divorce. It was very, very hard for me personally and financially. A few years later, my ex and I renegotiated our parenting plan on our own and settled on a 50-50 shared plan. My son was much happier, and it was the first time I felt some relief and was able to get my feet back on the ground professionally so I could earn enough to support my child.

After this period in my life, I became a Certified Family Mediator to help other parents going through divorce and to advocate for shared parenting. In NY, there is still a presumption that one parent will be the custodial parent. Until the law changes – and I hope NPO can influence that change – crafting a settlement agreement through mediation is often the best alternative.

National Parents Organization’s work begins with the premise that children need access to both parents in order to lead happy and healthy lives. Even if parents have separated or divorced, ample research shows that continued and consistent access to loving, fit parents has a measurable, positive impact on a child’s self-esteem, mental health, overall wellbeing and long-term success.   To carry out its mission, National Parents Organization advocates for shared parenting by reforming state legislation in order to presume equal custody between two fit parents after a divorce or separation. As the Washington Post recently reported, the organization has propelled legislation supportive of shared parenting – where children spend as close to equal time as possible with both parents – forward throughout the nation.

Shared Parenting Data

Single Parenting Data
According to 
federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, 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.

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 organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bonds with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting, bringing in research scholars from 18 countries to share their results on shared parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at

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