March 24, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Friends of National Parents Organization, Molly Olson and Terry Brennan, recently published this op-ed (Sun Sentinel, 3/22/16). The Sentinel is to be congratulated for posting their piece, particularly given the recent spate of articles in Florida newspapers opposing SB 668 becoming law.

SB 668 is the bill that reforms alimony in the Sunshine State and establishes the premise that equal parenting time is best for the children of divorce. The state House and Senate passed the bill by overwhelming margins, but it now sits on Governor Rick Scott’s desk awaiting his signature. Two years ago, Scott vetoed similar legislation saying its retroactivity would unfairly affect alimony recipients. Well, this year’s bill has no such provision. It’s not retroactive. So proponents of reform are wondering what Scott is up to now.

Against that backdrop, please read Olson and Brennan’s piece. It rightly draws a connection between current presidential politics and the resistance to family law reform.

Olson and Brennan note that perhaps the most salient feature of the presidential primaries now in progress is the strength of the anti-Washington, anti-elite-special-interests sentiment reflected in Donald Trump’s tenacious hold on first place among GOP candidates. I would add that Bernie Sanders’ campaign that’s nipping at the heels of Hilary Clinton, the obvious candidate of the Democratic Party elites, looks very much like the same wolf in different clothing.

What does that have to do with shared parenting? A lot. Olson and Brennan make the matter painfully clear.

Shared parenting is supported by 43 peer reviewed papers, 110 world experts and more than 70 percent public support. Studies show children denied shared parenting have higher substance abuse, behavioral issues and physical, social and emotional problems. Shared parenting is practiced in a number of states. In 2012, Arizona implemented laws encouraging judges to maximize the time children spend with both parents, and in 2015, Utah implemented a law providing a minimum of 40 percent time with each parent.

Further, fatherlessness is an epidemic. Researchers from Princeton, Cornell and Berkley published "The Causal Effects of Father Absence," concluding problems experienced by children of divorce are caused by father absence with others examining the correlation between fatherlessness and school-shooting perpetrators. Recently, actor and economist Ben Stein wrote "A World Without Fathers: That's Why Our Country is Falling Apart." In introducing a shared parenting bill in Missouri, Republican Sen. Wayne Wallingford plainly said, "Most fatherlessness is not caused by abandonment; it's created by an outdated court system."

So if shared parenting is best for children and supported by 70 percent of women, men, liberals and conservatives, it should be the law of the land, right? Wrong. Enter "the Establishment," stage right…

In 2014, an initiative was opposed by liberal, feminist groups AAUW, North Dakota Women's Network and the ACLU. Currently, Florida's bill is opposed by NOW, the League of Women Voters and UniteWomen.Org. This, despite only 18 percent of American's identifying as feminists, a number of feminists plainly stating fathers face sexist discrimination in family courts and polls showing American's believe top groups discriminated against in our courts include the poor, African-Americans and fathers.

Behind the scenes, another group holds the most power: The Bar associations.

Bar associations promote policies for their attorney membership, and they don't like shared parenting. Why? In voicing her support, Catherine Real, an attorney with 38 years' experience explained, "This will reduce the amount of litigation because of the presumption fathers are going to have equal timesharing with their children." Less litigation means less money for lawyers, so Bar associations will go to any length to stop shared parenting.

The Florida Bar Association hired lobbyists who used to work directly for the governor, to obtain his veto. That is the very definition of establishment politics causing a citizen revolt and substantiating special interests use their money to get their way.

In short, science and We the People support shared parenting. But time and again, special interest groups, like family lawyers and feminists, manage to impede progress. Nowhere could that be more apparent than what’s going on now in Florida. The elected representatives of the people of the state voted for shared parenting and alimony reform, not for the first time, but for the second. The first time Governor Scott came up with a plausible reason for his veto, but what now?

Only yesterday I pointed out that in three separate states within the last nine months, bar associations have been invited to help write shared parenting bills, done so, and then turned around and opposed what they helped create. The excuses for opposition to what’s good for kids, parents, society and the public purse have grown thinner and thinner to the point of vanishing. Quite literally, there is no excuse for that opposition, and yet it continues.

As such, it’s a naked exercise of power by the few against the wishes – and the well-being - of the many. And that, of course is precisely the point Olson and Brennan are making. At the national level, that sort of behavior is now reaping a whirlwind of rebellion against established, mainstream politics as usual. The two major political parties and the mainstream media are in a panic about their failure to control electoral politics, but they have no one but themselves to blame. If they’d paid closer attention to the needs of everyday Americans, they wouldn’t be fighting the likes of Trump for their very legitimacy.

Opponents of shared parenting should take note. Governor Rick Scott should too. There is no excuse for not signing SB 668 into law. None.

I’ve argued before that the next logical step for shared parenting forces is political. Olson and Brennan suggest much the same. Political elites ignore the will of the people at their peril. That’s what democracy is all about.

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National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#alimonyreform, #sharedparenting, #DonaldTrump, #electoralpolitics

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