January 12, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Back on January 8, I posted a piece on the badly misinformed editorial in the Washington Post opposing shared parenting and promoting the work of a legislative committee that, in 2013, was tasked with studying the matter of child custody and parenting time among other things. Like Joan Meier’ letter to the editor and Terence Mentor’s op-ed, Post editors demonstrated a profound lack of basic information about shared parenting and the bills that seek to make it law.

Now we have letters to the editor of the Post responding to its editorial (Washington Post, 1/9/18). The first is by friend of NPO and co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, Terry Brennan. It is characteristically informed, informing and to the point. I’ll get back to it, but for now I want to focus on the second LTE.

It’s by Risa J. Garon who proudly announces, “I was honored to serve on a committee of the Maryland Commission on Child Custody Decision Making.” I believe it. Garon’s letter is so chock full of error and disinformation that it would be an embarrassment to those better informed. Of course, I don’t know the opinions of the other members of the committee, but if Garon’s are any indication, it’s no wonder it failed the children of Maryland as badly as it did.

Garon asks why there aren’t more states with a presumption of shared parenting. Her “answer?”

Speak with the children and parents who struggle with joint legal custody. Their experience may incorporate a parent who refuses to support children’s activities, special needs and communication with their co-parent. Some parents suffer from untreated mental illness or continued substance abuse and refuse to be treated.

Hmm. It’s funny that Garon has no idea about the difference between legal and physical custody. That’s about as basic a concept as we’re likely to find in this area, but Garon hasn’t a clue. Joint legal custody is nothing more than the right to be consulted on important decisions about a child’s schooling, medical care, etc. Joint legal custody is quite common and we see essentially no problems with it. But a non-custodial parent who doesn’t cooperate in deciding about soccer vs. basketball quickly finds himself ignored. If Garon knew what legal custody is, she’d know that, but she doesn’t.

As to parents suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, there’s never been a shared parenting bill that didn’t allow judges to make exceptions for those and other situations that militate against shared parenting.

Parents who remain in high conflict with joint custody become toxic to their children.

They can, but Garon assumes that only joint custody produces conflict. That of course is so much nonsense. Indeed, shared custody can actually reduce conflict over time. By contrast, due to its winner-take-all approach to custody, the current system invites parents to fight to the bitter end and continue fighting after the order is signed.

Research shows that it is not about the quantity of time or overnights that children spend with a parent; rather, it is about their attachment and trust of that parent, and how that parent meets their child’s developmental needs and works constructively with their co-parent.

Citation? Garon offers none for the good and sufficient reason that there are none to offer. Dr. Linda Nielsen analyzed all 52 peer reviewed/government conducted studies of shared parenting in the English language. Fifty-one of them found shared parenting to be vastly better for children’s welfare. A single one had ambiguous findings. There are plenty of others. For example, Malin Bergstrom’s work in Sweden consistently demonstrates shared parenting to be second only to intact families at promoting children’s mental health.

The commission respects the involvement of both parents in a way that meets children’s needs.

No, it doesn’t. If it did, it would have taken steps to encourage the state legislature to change Maryland’s laws to promote the health and well-being of its children. Instead it opted for a status quo that routinely sidelines fit fathers in their children’s lives. It did so despite the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that the current system of sole/primary custody is bad for kids, bad for fathers, bad for mothers and bad for society generally.

There are entrenched, monied forces that invariably resist shared parenting initiatives for their own self-interest. If they had some principled objection, they’d have produced it by now, but they haven’t. They never do. Garon’s is just one more example.

I’ll write about Terry Brennan’s letter next time.

 

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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:

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