Nebraska Judicial Training versus Science: Enter Emery

May 21, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As I showed last time, the Nebraska Committee on Judicial Branch Education first invited shared parenting advocate Dr. Linda Nielsen to speak to its judges’ conference in the Fall of 2014 and then disinvited her. Its representative, director Carole McMahon-Boies claimed that was because a tight budget prohibited their having Nielsen speak. That was a lie. We know it was a lie because the same day she disinvited Nielsen, she invited anti-shared parenting advocate Robert Emery to speak to the same group at the same time. McMahon-Boies never mentioned any issue of budgetary strictures to Emery. The JBE paid his honorarium and expenses just as it had promised Nielsen.

That brings us to the last of the documents turned over by the Administrator of Courts, Corey Steel, to shared parenting advocate Dr. Les Veskrna pursuant to his Open Records Act request. Those are copies of the slides of Emery’s presentation to the judges. Whoever decided to disinvite Nielsen clearly got his/her money’s worth from Emery who rarely has a good word to say about either fathers or shared parenting.

So, for example, one of his slides lists 13 “rights” a child supposedly has (or should have), according to Emery. (As far as I can tell, it’s a list Emery made up himself.) Unsurprisingly, one right Emery doesn’t believe a child should have is the right to a meaningful relationship with its father. That of course is odd because although none of the “rights” listed by Emery is in fact an actual right a child has, many states have emphasized in law the importance of children having meaningful relationships with both parents. Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed parents’ rights to their kids which comes close to amounting to a child’s right to its parents. So Emery’s list doggedly ignores actual statutory rights in favor of his own wish list.

Now let me hasten to add that his list also didn’t include a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with its mother. But, as I so often say, the context in which this occurs is one in which mothers have automatic rights to their kids by virtue of their biological connection to them, and fathers don’t. And the overwhelming majority of sole and primary custody in divorce cases goes to mothers. This is not news to readers of this blog and it’s certainly not news to Robert Emery. We and he understand that, pretty much regardless of everything else, a child of divorce will have a real, full relationship with its mother. The only issue is whether little Andy or Jenny gets to see Dad.

Elsewhere, Emery cites two studies that conclude that mere contact with dad isn’t enough to produce the salutary effects of shared parenting. What’s required is a good parent-child relationship. That of course is fair enough. A child having a great deal of contact with a drunken, abusive father isn’t likely to benefit.

But Emery omits a couple of important things. First, the science isn’t confined to dads. Lousy mothers aren’t good for kids either, but that fact didn’t make it into Emery’s presentation. Second, and more important, is the same question I asked of Dr. Lisa Blankenau earlier in this blog thread, “how is a father-child dyad supposed to establish a good relationship if they seldom see each other?”

It’s one of the weirdest concepts trafficked in by the anti-dad crowd. They want people to believe that a good parent-child relationship is in some way separate from having enough parenting time to establish such a relationship. Blankenau inveighed against any overnights for the non-primary parent, i.e. Dad, for up to the first six years of the child’s life and yet somehow also recognized the need of the child for a full relationship with him. Needless to say, she never got around to explaining how Dad was supposed to accomplish that. Emery is more of the same.

And neither explains or even refers to the significant body of research demonstrating that, when fathers receive so little parenting time from courts (or from Mom), they become progressively marginalized over time in their child’s life.

In fact, fathers need time with their kids. Without it, they can’t establish the very high-quality relationships with them both Emery and Blankenau admit are good for kids. Their intellectual dishonesty on that subject is truly astonishing.

Moving on to the usual bogeyman with which the anti-dad crowd threatens shared parenting advocates – parental conflict. Emery’s slide says, “Parental conflict: no clear definition of how high is too high, but contested custody is one definition I use.”

Hmm. Where have we seen that claim before? Ah yes, I remember. Linda Nielsen put that notion to rest in her recent paper about which I posted a series of three articles. Here’s what she had to say:

Only two quantitative studies have explored the link between children’s well-being and their parents having or not having had a contested custody case. The more recent study included 94 divorced couples who were randomly selected from court records in one Arizona county (Goodman et al., 2004)… But high legal conflict was not linked to children’s problems.

The previous study was even clearer.

At the end of 18 months, the 19 children in contested cases had better outcomes on almost all measures of well-being than the 12 children in uncontested cases, even though the two groups’ scores were not significantly different at the outset on most variables.

Nielsen concluded,

Naturally we cannot draw conclusions from only two studies. But at the very least, we should be aware that no quantitative data yet exist to support the assumption that children whose parents contest custody have significantly worse outcomes than children whose parents agree at the outset on the custody arrangements.

And yet that is exactly what Robert Emery does, apparently as a matter of course. Note as well that Emery’s presentation took place in 2014 and the two studies cited by Nielsen were published in 2004 and 1991, so he knew about them. Plus, Nielsen’s article has just been published, so there are no other studies to date to contradict the two she cited.

Emery’s use of legal conflict to oppose kids having contact with their fathers is unsupported by any science and opposed by two studies. Does it get any clearer than that? The man opposes shared parenting and children having real relationships with their fathers, not out of scientific principle, but due to anti-father bias. Nothing else explains it.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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