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All I Want for Father's Day: Equal Parenting Time

I’ve blogged in the past about the injustice in the parenting time laws in Minnesota and other states. In fact, I testified in front of a Minnesota Senate hearing on the matter. The law passed on a bi-partisan basis, but was vetoed by our short-sighted governor, after he was lobbied by divorce lawyers. As it stands, dads still get the shaft in most states when it comes to post-divorce custody.

Now, Gail Rosenblum reports, women are joining the fight. In fact, the new group that has formed is only women:

It’s not all wrapped up yet, but a big gift is arriving for divorced dads who want equal time with their kids.

Launched in early May and already claiming a broad spectrum of members across the United States and Canada, a new advocacy group is determined to finally make equally shared parenting a reality.

These aren’t a bunch of guys. Every member is a woman.

Leading Women for Shared Parenting (www.lw4sp.org), founded in May in Massachusetts, will launch officially on Father’s Day. Many members aren’t waiting.

Paulette MacDonald, former president of the Canadian Equal Parenting Council, is throwing a launch party June 11 in Toronto, bringing in experts on family law to speak to the benefits of having mom and dad play equal roles in children’s lives post-divorce.

Members, who include congresswomen on both sides of the aisle, social workers, professors, family lawyers, domestic abuse experts, grandmothers and daughters raised by loving dads, say the only way to finally turn the corner on this long-brewing “fathers’ issue” is for women to step up and fight on their behalf.

Read the rest.

If this is an issue that concerns you, as it does me, I encourage you to get involved.

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  • Craig

    What’s the best argument against post-divorce parenting time presumptively divided equally? Let’s set aside Tony’s helpful insight about the self-serving interests of divorce lawyers. Does the other side have any good or even mildly promising arguments?

  • I certainly hope for the day that all good non-custodial fathers and mothers, regardless of their ability to afford legal counsel, are able to have sufficient parenting time with their children.

    I’m going to look into this women’s advocacy group and learn a bit more about their philosophy. One thing that I would like to see in the custody wars is a greater effort to de-stigmatize women who aren’t their children’s primary caretakers. Many people have negative opinions of women who don’t have custody of their children (regardless of the reason) and I often suspect that these attitudes compel some women to fight harder (and dirtier) for full custody when doing so isn’t in anyone’s best interests.

    If there were more men and women who were willing to say that yes, good mothers certainly do choose to give primary custody to fathers (or participate in very flexible custody plans), I suspect that we’d see a lot less nastiness in custody battles and a lot more rational discourse on the issue of child custody and parenting time.

  • Craig

    Nice points. So long as the courts presumptively award primary custody to the mothers, there is bound to be stigma attached to mothers who fail to receive it. It works in the opposite direction for the dads – giving cover to divorced dads who don’t spend much time with their kids.

  • Craig,

    I’m sure that people who know a lot more than I do will eventually show up to give more detail, but these are the arguments I’ve heard against mandated joint custody/equal parenting time arrangements:

    1. Equally shared parenting time can create stress for children as they are regularly shuffled between two homes.
    2. If the divorce/separation is one of high conflict, a joint custody arrangement (which is different than equal parenting time, but they can go hand-in-hand) can create more friction as every decision about a child’s life (i.e. education, health, religion, going to summer camp, etc) is a potential battleground.
    3. There are some cases in which one parent may want or need to move some distance away from the other parent. Mandated equal parenting time can keep another spouse from moving, even if he or she has good reason to do so.

    My .02 (and probably worth every penny) is that joint custody and equal parenting time are the ideal. However, I also believe that family courts (and families themselves) need to be flexible in working out an arrangement that reduces stress and enables parents to effectively care for themselves and their kids.

  • I think it’s a self-perpetuating system, yes.

    Personally, I think that there are some real advantages to giving physical custody to dads (with plenty of visitation time with mom, of course). The first is that fathers are often (though not always) further along in their careers than mothers. If a woman has to re-enter the workforce after a divorce (and many do), it’s likely to be easier on her if she doesn’t have to worry about staying home with a sick kid or leaving work at 5pm on the dot. Being able to concentrate more fully on a career could help these women catch up economically.

    The second advantage is that it might make it easier on these women to find a new relationship and remarry. While I am not an advocate of people dating and remarrying soon after a divorce (and am even more cautious when children are involved), I suspect that if a woman does want to eventually remarry, she might have an easier time of it if she isn’t a full-time caregiver.

    This is all theoretical though, and I’d hasten to point out that there are obviously going to be situations where equally shared custody or primary mother custody is better for everyone. But I do believe that the stigma against childfree women as well as non-custodial mothers unfairly clouds this issue.

  • Craig

    I like the way you think – definitely worth every penny. If generally mandated equal parenting means insensitivity to case-by-case alternatives, I’m not for it. I’d rather advocate that, going into any case, there be no presumption that custody be divided unequally. I’d also say, more strongly, that for custody purposes giving consideration to the sex of a parent is simply wrong.

  • Sofia

    In regards to stress, it seems much worse under the current common system where children spend every other weekend and one weekday with the non-winning parent. I have seen this at work in friends’ lives, and it’s fairly chaotic. One weeknight on a school day barely offers any time for real connection.

    An equitable, stable share of a week at a time in each home offers much more stability. Neither situation is ideal, but in my experience, continuity is essential for the building of strong bonds in a child’s relationship with a parent.

  • Phule77

    In all of the cases I have seen of this sort of thing (especially currently with my niece, who is required to stay in TX with her two children because that is where the ex is, even though it’s close to unaffordable) is that in many cases, the ex-husband does everything in his power not to pay child support, and uses the kids as a weapon. Obviously, YMMV, but things that create laws where there must be a 50/50 divide, rather than on a case by case basis, will obviously create situation where abusive parents who know how to play within the rules will get all of the power they want to destroy the lives of others.

  • DC

    -In most cases (51%), both parents decided out-of-court that the mother was to receive full custody.

    -In 29% of custody cases, the decision is made without any third-party involvement.

    – In 91% of cases, the decision for the mother to have custody was made without any court involvement.

    – Of those who go to court, 70% of men who seek custody of their children receive it.

    – Of those 70%, 1/3 of the cases cited domestic violence as a reason for the divorce

    – Women who mention having been victims of domestic violence in court are less likely to receive custody of their children than women who don’t

    So let’s stop this hand-wringing about ~gender bias~ around custody of children after divorce and how it’s so unfair that men don’t get custody of their children more often. ABUSIVE MEN are the ones who are ”unfairly” receiving custody – more often than the women they abuse.