Statement by Harris Allen, PhD
Thanks to the Judiciary Committee for the chance to come before you this afternoon and testify in support of HB 1400 concerning shared parenting. I am the recently divorced father of two children, ages 14 and 12, and have become deeply concerned about the changes in my role as their paternal parent. The changes reflect, in my view, a systematic and unwarranted tilt in the application of justice – a tilt that favored the mother, was unfair to the father, and will ultimately prove unnecessarily detrimental to our children.
Having experienced firsthand at age 14 the divorce of my own mother and father and all the pain it led to, I did everything I could think of to make things work with my ex-wife. But, after 16 years of marriage and a two-year case in court, we obtained a divorce judgment in July 2008. For 10 of these 16 years I worked out of the home. This allowed me the joys of being highly involved in the day-to-day affairs of our kids, making their school lunches, taking their notebooks to school when they forgot them, getting them to the doctor when they became sick, picking them up from day care, chauffeuring play dates, and the like. If anything, I spent more time with them a day and day out basis than my ex-wife, who ever since I have known her has worked as a litigator partner at a law firm in downtown Boston.
Despite the fact that all I sought was continuation of the 50/50 split in time and responsibilities, the judge acceded to her request and granted her complete legal and physical custody of both children. The kids and I were given only four overnights together out of every 14 nights. These rulings stunned me. My role as father to my children became severely and undeservedly marginalized. If you yourselves have children, perhaps you can imagine what the pain of this is like.
Surely, a mother”s relationship with her children is sacred, but what makes it any more sacred than the relationship between children and a father who is absolutely devoted to their well-being and development? There is much scientific evidence that children of divorced households fare far better when they retain vibrant connections and fully experience both mother and father in their parental roles. My own childhood experience bears this out.
My children and I do not see each other nearly enough, even though the two parental homes are only about four miles apart. The kids are branching out now, developing their own lives, and we get together essentially when it works for them do so. A mother driven by a myopic, litigator-oriented, “win at all costs no matter what the damage to the relationship between father and children’ approach was rewarded by the courts. As a result, my kids have been robbed of the chance to experience me as the strong father that they deserve.
Bill 1400 will take a vital step toward altering the judicial process such that future divorce cases in front of the MASS courts will render more just and balanced decisions that better serve the interests of all parties involved – children, their fathers, and yes, even the long-term interests of their mothers. It deserves passage by the state legislature.