February 4, 2015
By Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Founder and Acting Executive Director,
National Parents Organization
The greatest ideas have always been so simple: one God, equality, freedom, government of the people, do unto others…
Likewise, shared parenting is a simple idea. Our opponents, of course, can think up a million reasons why shared parenting cannot possibly work. Too complicated, too hard, too confusing, too whatever. Imagine trying to explain to a cave-dweller that there is a 100-ton machine that flies. He would give you five million reasons why it could never work. But they do fly.
In the archived article below, Don Bieniewicz beautifully illustrates how simple it would be to make shared parenting the norm. He draws upon an anti-drug ad campaign of a couple of decades ago in which the recurring theme was, “Just Say No.”
Advice To Family Court Judges: Just Say "No"
by Don Bieniewicz*
July 9, 2003
Family court judges need to be the last line of defense for children when their family ties are at risk.
When divorcing parents come to a family court judge and each says, "I am the better parent, take away the parental rights of the other parent and make me the only parent, the sole custodian of my kids," the judge should look them both in the eye and just say, "No."
The judge should say to the parents:
"Is either of you both a mommy and a daddy? No.
"Is either of you alone capable of giving your children all the mother’s and father’s love and guidance and protection to which they are entitled? No.
"Is either of you alone capable of connecting your children to both their sets of grandparents and all their aunts and uncles and cousins — their full family heritage? No.
"Can either of you alone be loved by your children in the different ways that children love their mother and their father? No.
"The answer to all these questions is the same. No.
"You are adults. You may no longer wish to be married. You may wish to divorce. You have the right to do this. But you must act responsibly towards your kids. They are not adults. They have children’s needs that only both their mommy and their daddy can satisfy.
"So I will answer your requests with a simple ‘No’.
"You, sir, will remain your children’s father. You, madam, will remain your children’s mother. Absent clear and convincing evidence that either of you is a threat to your children, this is my decision. Look after your children, both of you. They need you both. Don’t let them down.
"Learn to work together on this. If I do have to remove custody from one of you, it will be because you have interfered with or attempted to undermine the other parent in their contact with, parenting of, or relationship with their children. Remember that.
"This time I am just saying, ‘No.’ Next time you try to separate your children from the other parent, without evidence of criminal neglect or abuse, you will be punished.
"Give your children the greatest gift you can, the freedom to love their other parent. Support them in this. Do not let your personal feelings toward your ex-spouse hurt your children. When these bad feelings surface and attempt to motivate you to say or do things that would hurt your children, look those feelings firmly in the eye and just say, ‘No.’"
* Don Bieniewicz is a public policy analyst in Washington, DC. He has been an advocate for family law reform for nearly 30 years. He is the author of the Children’s Rights Council’s model child support guideline that was published in 1994 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in "Child Support Guidelines: The Next Generation."