Schaefer: Wrong on the Law, Wrong on the Science, Wrong for Michigan’s Families

November 17, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This continues from yesterday’s post.

At this point, it’s appropriate to thank John Schaefer for one thing (Detroit News, 11/13/17). His article is a mess of misrepresentations about what he does know and errors about things he doesn’t, like the science on shared parenting. But fair is fair and Schaefer deserves thanks.

That’s not because of his words, but because of his photo. The image he provided to the Detroit News fairly shouts “wealthy and prosperous!” Schaefer, in his tailored dark blue suit, bright white shirt and hankie and silk necktie, is the very picture of the well-heeled divorce lawyer. As such, his photo tells readers what his words do not – that divorce law can be very, very lucrative. So, for all the dishonesty of his words, his picture speaks the truth.

And that truth is instructive. It tells us the true reason for Schaefer’s objection to HB 5691 – money. Like so many divorce lawyers, Schaefer knows that shared parenting legislation would significantly impact his personal bottom line. It would do that by reducing conflict between the parents. As things stand now, parents enter the divorce arena knowing that one of them will end up seeing their kids on the order of 20% of the time. He/she will go from being a loving, caring parent to an outsider, a vague, unimportant semi-presence in the child’s life. No one wants that, so both fight tooth and nail to prevent it’s happening to them. Schaefer, having been around the block once or twice, understands the danger posed by HB 4691, so he resorts to the usual scurrilous tactics to try to prevent its passage.

John, a word of advice: next time, take a photo of you in jeans and a sweatshirt playing ball with your son or showing your daughter how to ride her bike. Whatever you choose, ditch the lawyer garb. It tells the truth too clearly.

So, back to Schaefer’s lies and misrepresentations.

Every divorce situation needs to be examined carefully and individually because every family situation is different. This bill takes that careful judgment out of the picture. Child custody arrangements should take into account the child’s best interest, first and foremost and forever. This bill does not.

Well, the latter is simply a lie. As Schaefer knows, the bill is littered with clauses instructing judges about how to determine the best interests of the child. That’s because it in no way alters existing Michigan law that requires that judges issue custody orders in children’s best interests. So the notion that the bill does away with that bedrock standard is false.

As to each “divorce situation” being different, I’m sure that’s true. No two families are exactly alike. But that fact militates against Schaefer’s claim, not for it. It does so because, as things stand, judges take a cookie-cutter approach to parenting time. Overwhelmingly, judges order that mothers have primary custody and fathers see the children every other weekend plus a few hours during the week. It’s as uniform an approach as can be imagined, but incredibly, Schaefer wants his readers to believe that it’s shared parenting that’s a one-size-fits-all. As I said yesterday, the bill leaves plenty of room for judges to tailor bills to fit unique circumstances.

Which brings me to another omission by Schaefer. In his eagerness to make readers believe that the bill would strait-jacket judges, he neglected to mention that, of course, every divorcing couple is free to agree to their own parenting arrangement. That too would remain unchanged from current law.

From there, Schaefer descends to the outright loony.

If we truly want to do something to encourage parents spending more time with their children — as proponents of this bill claim is their goal– we should eliminate any relationship between parenting time and money.

Currently in Michigan, the number of overnights a parent has with his or her children, very much drives the amount of child support paid. That is the worst legislation ever passed.

“Eliminate the relationship between parenting time and money?” Excuse me. Michigan law currently acknowledges the simple truth that the longer a child stays with one parent, the more that parent spends on the child. Let’s say it takes $800 per month to pay for a child’s needs. If one parent has the child 100% of the time, it would be appropriate for the other to pay $400. That way, each parent would bear half the cost of the child’s upkeep. But if each parent has the child 50% of the time, it would be appropriate for neither to pay the other anything. After all, each is already paying half of his/her expenses. Non-everyday expenses, like school supplies, tuition, health insurance, soccer lessons, etc. would of course be split 50-50.

Weirdly, Schaefer calls for the state to pretend, against all that’s true and obvious, that there’s no relationship between parenting time and money paid for the child’s care. Where he gets that idea, I can’t begin to guess. Or wait, maybe I can.

By requiring non-custodial parents to pay 100% of the child’s upkeep, regardless of how much time they spend with the child, Schaefer is promoting greater conflict between the parents. He’s financially incentivizing both parents to fight for primary or sole custody. Under his scheme, parents wouldn’t just be fighting to avoid losing contact with their kids, they’d be fighting to either get the money or avoid paying it.

There’s a definite coherence to Schaefer’s screed. His every argument seeks to exacerbate conflict between parents. And we know why.

Again, opponents of shared parenting have no reasoned, fact-based argument to make, so they resort to lies, misrepresentations and, in this case, one of the strangest positions I’ve ever seen.

Shared parenting is the best post-divorce arrangements for kids. In rare instances it shouldn’t be used, but the current system has nothing to recommend it. Lawyers in tailored suits long ago proved they’re not the guides we need to take us to a better system of child custody.




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.

#sharedparenting, #child’sbestinterests, #Michigan

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