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The Massachusetts Legislature’s sweeping reform of the criminal statutes does well to focus on the prevention of crime, but it lacks a simple measure proven to decrease crime: shared parenting, versus sole custody, after parents divorce.

In the spring of 2016, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a shared parenting bill written by a blue-ribbon Task Force appointed by former Governor Deval Patrick, but the Senate did not act on the bill before the Legislature adjourned. We can help solve our high crime rates with shared parenting. We have known this for years, but have not acted – so Massachusetts lawmakers should enact the Task Force’s bill now.

This may seem like a different matter altogether. But to understand the connection between divorce law and crime, first examine a straightforward fact – 85 percent of prisoners were raised in single-parent households without fathers. There is abundant evidence supporting the idea that fatherlessness is a potent cause of crime. People who have grown up in high crime neighborhoods know this well. Denzel Washington, for instance, just reminded us of the crisis of fatherlessness as the root cause of crime in his childhood neighborhoods.

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A new bill at the state capitol could impact the way custody is decided in divorce proceedings.

“It’s absolutely soul crushing to have all those moments lost with my kids, ” explained Ron Holm of Kansas City, Kansas.

Holm said his divorce is why he is hoping for change.

“I went from being a stay at home parent to every other weekend and Wednesday night,” added Holm.

Holm works for the National Parents Organization-Kansas Chapter. The group is pushing for changes in the way custody is given during divorce cases.

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Proponents stood up and gave testimony in favor of the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring the state more in line with 50/50 parenting after a divorce.

"For a year, I tried to fight to get into a courtroom to be able to explain my and be able to see my again. For a year, I watched my kids fade from my life," said one father Paul Swaneson.

Members of the National Parents Organization said clear and convincing evidence should be the standard in all custody cases before judges, and say nearly equal time with parents is in the best interest for children.

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Divorced parents spoke Tuesday at state capitols in Kansas and Missouri, sharing the benefits of equal time with their kids. Moms and dads are hoping to change the laws in custody decisions.

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Divorcing parents who don’t agree on custody would share time with children equally by default – unless a court finds clear evidence that they shouldn’t – under a Kansas bill.

Similar measures are cropping up in states across the country as part of a push to promote involvement by fathers and co-parenting.

Proponents say the measures are better for children. They point to research showing benefits for children raised by two parents. But critics contend creating a presumption of equal time discourages parents from reaching their own agreement.

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Divorcing parents who don’t agree on custody would share time with children equally by default – unless a court finds clear evidence that they shouldn’t – under a Kansas bill.

Similar measures are cropping up in states across the country as part of a push to promote involvement by fathers and co-parenting.

Proponents say the measures are better for children. They point to research showing benefits for children raised by two parents. But critics contend creating a presumption of equal time discourages parents from reaching their own agreement.

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Maryland family courtrooms could become a happier place for Maryland children – if state lawmakers act on an opportunity to reform child custody laws. As a recent Washington Post editorial highlighted, Maryland lawmakers are considering recommendations from a special commission that studied child custody decisions.

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The commonwealth is at a crossroads. It is a crossroads of opportunity, truth, and what’s actually best for children and families, intact or divorced/separated. Shared parenting (or shared/joint physical custody) has been presented to Virginia’s General Assembly several times over the past decade, but never has it been more timely.

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