Wisconsin–Background: Recently I asked you to help Wisconsin Fathers for Children and Families try to get their shared parenting bill out of committee. To learn more, click here.
Sharon, a reader, sent a letter via my site to the Wisconsin legislative committee titled “I do NOT Support Wisconsin’s Equal Placement bill AB-571.” I asked and received her permission to share her views on shared parenting with my readership–her letter to the committee is below.
Dear Wisconsin Representative:
Equal parenting / shared parenting ONLY works when BOTH parents can cooperate for the best interest of the child.
I have a drunk for an ex-husband who abused me both physically and emotionally throughout my entire short marriage. We have a 2 1/2 year old son that is being cut in half emotionally and tortured every weekend he is forced to spend under his father’s care. I have termed this abuse of my son to be “Solomonizing”.
It is clear through psychological studies that children thrive in happy homes consisting of 2 loving parents. They can also thrive in happy homes of a single parent. And they can thrive in broken homes with split parents that both love and focus on them. They do not, however, thrive in situations where they are taken away from their mother and picked up by an aunt and left at grandma’s while dad gets drunk. They do not thrive in situations where medical information is withheld because the parent doesn’t want to risk being held accountable for neglecting the child. They do not thrive in situations where telephone calls are restricted and refused and tampered with to prevent the baby from talking to mommy when he is away from her.
If the divorce is a custody battle full of lies and horrific accusations, and the parents can not even handle a possession transfer at the child’s home, and has to be mandated to transfer the child at a police department, then forced shared parenting is not going to work. It becomes a license to take away the civil liberties of the custodial parent and put that parent on county arrest until the child turns 18.
Along with forced shared parenting comes “the geographic restriction.” I personally am not allowed to move more than one county from where I live now without a modification of the court order. I am basically stripped of my freedom to live anywhere within this country, I am stripped of my right to pursue happiness, while my ex-husband has me close and easily accessible to continue to harass and abuse me.
Laws that strip people of their civil rights and freedom won’t force parents to share parenting, it will force mothers with abusive husbands to take their children and run and hide prior to divorce proceedings. I can guarantee you that if I had known that it was standard policy for my county to impose geographic restriction on all divorces with children, I would have left everything I had, taken my son and hid to raise him at poverty level before I would have knowingly subjected him to what he has to deal with now. I had a fantasy that when my husband left, the abuse would stop, and he would be happy to spend what time he could and stay sober with his son. But since he is forced to pay child support he considers to have paid for his time, and even if he doesn’t want to actually spend that time with his son, he sends someone to pick him up just to take him away from me. I know this because my son comes home and talks about NayNay and Ashley and Gam, and not Daddy.
Prior to the divorce petition, it would have been legal for me to leave. Now it is considered Federal Kidnapping for me to protect my son from my abuser.
In situations where parents BOTH care about the best welfare of their children, they would want to live close enough for both parents to be as involved in their children’s lives as possible. I wish this were the case for my son’s father. But it is not, and with his entire family encouraging his drinking and gambling and carousing as the nature of men, it is not likely for my son’s father to ever truly focus on him. So many of these fathers that cry that the evil ex-wife stole their children away spent far more effort being hateful to the wife than they ever did to love their children.
Maybe, just maybe, if my ex-husband knew that to walk out on his marriage meant he walked out on his son, he would have tried to follow just ONE piece of advice from the marriage counselor. Maybe he would have given up just one weekend a month to stay sober and focus on his family. And when he chose not to, then I should be granted the freedom to get on with my life, and if that means that I have to move halfway across the country to get away from his abuse, then he should have thought about that every time he pushed me, or slapped me, or pulled my hair, or belittled me and neglected his family to spend time with the Almighty Beer Can.
Shared parenting granted to a parent that is an alcoholic or drug user or abusive only sets up the children to be neglected. Every other weekend spent with a parent that is supposed to love and adore and cherish you, but that is spent ignored, is emotionally torturous to the child. That child starves for that parents love, and they can’t heal or recover from that emotional neglect because it is constantly forced upon them.
The solution to this problem of custodial parents “taking away” the children is not in forcing shared parenting, but in MANDATING MARITAL COUNSELING prior to granting a divorce. Then let the marriage counselor who sees these parents every week for 6 months dictate who gets custody, instead of a judge who hasn’t met either party prior to court, and who doesn’t even have time to hear all of the evidence. Make infidelity a crime punishable by losing custody of your children. Make drug use, even “casual” drug use, a crime punishable by losing custody of your children. Make petty physical and emotional abuse punishable by losing custody of your children. Put those repercussions into effect and you might just see that parents who truly care about their children might step up and parent and save their marriage.
Dear God, I pray and beg of you to think about ALL of the repercussions of what FORCED shared parenting does to the children and the custodial parent. Splitting a child in two does not make him whole.