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As our children head back to school again, it is useful to ask why so many are doing so poorly. It seems we've tried everything to improve standardized test scores among disadvantaged students, with little success.

But perhaps the answer partially lies in the home, not in the school. It turns out that children raised by single parents account for 71 percent of high school dropouts, according to federal statistics, and that children who have shared parenting after their parents separate due to divorce do considerably better.

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It’s difficult to believe that, in 2017, this even is a question. But statistics show that mothers still are awarded full physical custody of children in more than 80 percent of court-ordered child custody cases.

One big reason for the inequity is a decadeslong belief by judges and others that conflict between divorcing parents (which is to be expected at this difficult passage) will cause too much stress for children. Those wary of establishing shared parenting argue that it places­ children in the middle of disagreements, pressures them into loyalty conflicts or forces them to side with one parent against the other.

Their thinking is that it’s better to formally place the children in Mom’s household for stability and let Dad parent one night a week and every other weekend.

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What two factors vastly increase the likelihood of a healthy and happy future for kids after divorce?

Mom – and Dad.

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Children in shared custody arrangements "do considerably better on every measure, from school success, to fewer teen pregnancies and drug use, to having optimism for the future," said Dr. Ned Holstein, a public health practitioner and founder of the National Parents Organization (natioalparentsorganization.org), which aims to reform family court practices.

Holstein noted that in the past year, Missouri and Kentucky have passed "excellent shared parenting legislation," following states including Utah, Arizona and Alaska.

"If you want to hasten the process of healing, or at least tolerance, the worst thing you can do is declare one person a winner and one person a loser," he said.

"You're both winners. You're both going to be parents. That will actually diminish conflict."

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Linda Wright, chairperson of the Michigan chapter of the National Parents Organization, said it is difficult to ascertain who is the better parent based on the best interest factors when “a lot of custody cases” are decided after “10 minutes in front of a judge,” who cannot get an accurate picture of the family dynamics in such a short time.

“The current law is not working,” she said. “… Without there being a standard, it really doesn’t depend on who is the best parent. It depends on what judge you have and what county you’re in.

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Studies and statistics disagree with the court’s antiquated tradition of awarding sole custody a great majority of the time (U.S. Census stats show mothers receive sole custody more than 80 percent of the time). If mothers are better for singularly raising their children, why do federal statistics show that these children account for 63 percent of teen suicides? Why are we not outraged that 71 percent of kids who drop out of high school are from single-mother homes? Why should we not address the fact that 85 percent of those in prison come from fatherless homes? Why would anyone not want to fix this crisis?

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Children in shared custody arrangements "do considerably better on every measure, from school success, to fewer teen pregnancies and drug use, to having optimism for the future," said Dr. Ned Holstein, a public health practitioner and founder of the National Parents Organization (natioalparentsorganization.org), which aims to reform family court practices.

Holstein noted that in the past year, Missouri and Kentucky have passed "excellent shared parenting legislation," following states including Utah, Arizona and Alaska.

"If you want to hasten the process of healing, or at least tolerance, the worst thing you can do is declare one person a winner and one person a loser," he said.

"You're both winners. You're both going to be parents. That will actually diminish conflict."

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Children in shared custody arrangements “do considerably better on every measure, from school success, to fewer teen pregnancies and drug use, to having optimism for the future,” said Dr. Ned Holstein, a public health practitioner and founder of the National Parents Organization(natioalparentsorganization.org), which aims to reform family court practices.

Holstein noted that in the past year, Missouri and Kentucky have passed “excellent shared parenting legislation,” following states including Utah, Arizona and Alaska.

“If you want to hasten the process of healing, or at least tolerance, the worst thing you can do is declare one person a winner and one person a loser,” he said.

“You’re both winners. You’re both going to be parents. That will actually diminish conflict.”

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When his son, Lucas, was born in 2014, William Chen created a Facebook page to capture the most special moments of his child's life -- everything from ultrasounds to smiling baby pictures to tiny Lucas posing in front of a monster truck. "He's a bundle of joy," Chen said. "He's literally my mini-me." When Chen and Lucas's mother got divorced, she was awarded custody of their son and Chen's posts on the page became less frequent. It wasn't until April 12 that Kentucky parents like Chen received a new way to fight for equal time with their children. House Bill 492, signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin, created a presumption of joint -- rather than singular -- custody when couples with children divorce.

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Our nation’s antiquated family courts are standing in the way of women’s advancement in the workplace. Treating mothers as homemakers (and fathers only as breadwinners who pay child support) keeps women in a position of dependency and is out of touch with modern society.

Shared parenting is the solution; it’s a flexible arrangement where children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce. The arrangement allows mothers significantly more time and opportunity to pursue careers than the status quo “sole-custody-to-the-mother” arrangement, plus, it’s important to note that it treats mothers and fathers equally.

What’s more, shared parenting is not only better for women who want career advancement, but it also has been convincingly shown to be better for children, too. Research overwhelmingly shows children need and want both parents in their lives. The American Psychological Association published research in the journal “Psychology, Public Policy and Law” that showed strong support for equal parenting time of young children.

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