Ned Holstein, head of the National Parents Organization, formerly called Fathers and Families, says research shows that children do better academically and emotionally when they see a lot of each parent.I would favor joint child custody, even if there is domestic violence. If the parents fought before the divorce, they should not lose their rights after the divorce.
"We believe family courts are actively hurting kids," by not awarding joint custody more often, says Holstein. The best legislation, he says, favors joint custody, so long as both parents are fit and there's been no domestic violence.
Lawmakers in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida and Minnesota have passed measures favoring more equally shared custody, though governors vetoed the last two. Other states have introduced legislation, while some have created a task force to study the issue. A task force in Connecticut recently rejected such a change in custody law, while one in Maryland will issue its report later this year.
For Holstein, it boils down to equal rights for fathers in an era of converging gender roles, but he has faced a lot of resistance.
Joint custody is blocked by feminists and lawyers:
"It gets blocked time after time in legislatures because there are groups that don't want it to happen," he says.The parents define the interst of the children. That last sentence makes no sense unless you believe that judges and others should displace parents in child-rearing.
Until recently, the State Bar of South Dakota was one of those groups.
"The bar's concern was that the individual parent's interest trumped that of the children," says Thomas Barnett, executive director of the Bar.
After blocking legislation for several years, Barnett decided to work out a compromise. Legislation passed the South Dakota Senate unanimously this year and is now in the House. One major change dropped the legal presumption of joint custody, but the bill does call on judges to consider it and lays out a series of factors to weigh, including the logistics of a joint arrangement and how parents treat each other in the child's presence.In other words, the law will requires judges to make parenting decisions, and create work for lawyers to argue about it.
Women for Men reports on progress:
Presently eight States promote shared parenting including Arizona, Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. A Florida bill for alimony reform and shared parenting was expected to pass, but was crushed by a veto from Florida’s governor. The proposed amendment sought to increase the minimum amount of parenting time from 25% to 35%.
Connecticut established a Task Force to study the issue of shared parenting, with a report expected this month. In Maryland, legislators initiated a Commission on Child Custody Decision Making with a report due in late 2014.
Canada’s Bill C-560 on shared parenting is scheduled for second reading in the House of Commons in mid-March 2014. In previous iterations of this bill there has been non-partisan support from the Liberals, Conservatives and the Green Party, the latter two include shared parenting in their platforms.