Tell Obama & the Democrats to Embrace Shared Parenting & Reform Divorce

Los Angeles, CA–Recently victorious Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama asked people for their input on what his new administration’s priorities should be.

The National Organization for Women and other feminist groups who have Obama’s ear have sent out Action Alerts asking their members to urge Obama to adopt their agendas.

The Fatherhood Movement does not have Obama’s ear and won’t anytime soon, but we should still urge Obama and the Democrats to embrace Shared Parenting. To do so, click here.

Feel free to repost what you sent Obama in the comments section of this blog post.

Obama wrote:

There is no more important resource for changing the direction of this country and defining the ideas that will transform America than the American people. Tell us your ideas and be part of the change you’re looking for.

The page is here–I suggest you click the buttons “Family” and “Civil Rights.”

I used the subject line “Shared Parenting/Divorce Reform” and sent in this excerpt from my co-authored column Protect Fathers’ Loving Bonds with Their Children (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/15/08):

Millions of divorced or separated men are not permitted any meaningful role in their children’s lives. Many get to spend only a few days a month with their kids, and once mom finds a new man, they’re often pushed out entirely in favor of the child’s “new dad.”¬† Yet when we talk about fatherless homes, it’s only in the context of the “paternal abandonment” script.

The benefits that divorced or separated fathers can provide their children are substantial. For example, a recent study of low-income African-American and Hispanic families by Boston College found that when nonresident fathers are involved in their adolescent children’s lives, the incidence of substance abuse, violence, crime, and truancy decreases markedly. The study’s lead author, professor Rebekah Levine Coley, says the study found involved nonresident fathers to be “an important protective factor for adolescents.”

Family courts often facilitate outcomes which damage children’s relationships with their fathers. While child custody laws are neutral on paper, in practice they favor awarding sole custody or primary residency to mothers and visitor status to fathers.

These outmoded, reactionary policies are unfair to fathers (and also to some mothers who lose custody), and disastrous for children. What’s needed instead is a presumption of shared parenting in divorce or separation. Under this presumption, when parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, courts will order shared custody unless there is clear and convincing evidence that one of the parents is unfit or unable to care for the children. A mediator will then help the parents draft a shared parenting plan awarding each parent substantially equal time with their children.

Research shows that shared parenting is best for kids. For example, according to a meta-analysis of 33 studies of children of divorce published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology, children in shared custody settings had fewer behavior and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, better family relations, and better school performance than children in sole custody arrangements.

Moreover, studies of children of divorce demonstrate that most prefer joint custody and shared parenting. For example, Arizona State University psychology professor William Fabricius conducted a study, published in Family Relations, of college students who had experienced their parents’ divorces while they were children. He found that over two-thirds believed that “living equal amounts of time with each parent is the best arrangement for children.”

The family law system has for too long given short shrift to a child’s love for his or her father and a father’s right to parent his child. At the dawn of the divorce age it was perhaps understandable that courts didn’t know how to make genuinely beneficial custody arrangements. It no longer is. Shared parenting protects children’s loving bonds with both parents, and should be the norm.

 Again, to urge Obama and the Democrats to embrace Shared Parenting, click here. Feel free to repost what you sent Obama in the comments section of this blog post.

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