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Alaska & Arizona get an “A”

November 16, 2014

 

Today we learn that another set of Shared Parenting initiatives across the US have failed – see, “Report: States fail on shared parenting laws” by Jonathan Ellis (‘USA TODAY’, Nov 13th). [1]

The report compiled by the National Parents Organization – and shown below – grades each state on its capacity to deal with shared parenting as a child custody alternative (see Appendix 1)

The top scoring states were Alaska and Arizona with ‘B+’ grades, and seven states plus Washington, DC, received a ‘B’ grade. Nearly half of the 50 states received a ‘D’ grade but New York and Rhode Island rated only a poor ‘F’.

This reluctance is typical of the ingrained attitude of governments afraid of any progressive thinking that they haven’t thought of first. It is the general fate – with notable exceptions – that greets any supporter of shared parenting (though it has to be said that the situation is improving by the year and had they been undertaken 10 years ago, in 2004, then firstly it would not have made headlines and secondly, the grades would all have been ‘F’). At least today the subject has now become part of mainstream culture.

The struggle for recognition is reminiscent of barriers to progress faced by mathematician and electronics inventor Ivor Catt (you can thank him for his part in making it possible for the computer you are now using to handle data).  In a lecture given to the Ethical Society, entitled “The Politics of Knowledge” (24th March 1996), Catt spelt out the difficulties of 1/. acceptance and 2/. of suppression that inventors have faced through the ages (see Appendix 2).   In a separate essay (“The Clever Take the Brilliant”), Catt outlined how one doesn’t have to be the sharpest tool in the box to ‘win out.’ It’s comparable to fitting one dud spark plug to a car engine and despite the finest and most perfect performance from all the other spark plugs, the engine’s perfomance drops and the engine is in effect governed by the dullest speak plug.

While sole mother custody is the predominant regime most often found, the custody engine and children’s safety will always, despite everyone’s best endeavours,  be performing at below par. Linda Scher, mentioned below typifies the schism in thinking and the inability to think outside the box. She confuses the shared parenting concept as a simplistic choice between 1/. promoting parental rights versus 2/. children’s needs. She then further muddies the waters by stating that ” . . . judges need flexibility to determine custody issues on a case-by-case basis” completion ignoring that at present custody is decided on nothing better than a conveyor belt basis.

 

‘Report: States fail on shared parenting laws’

 Jonathan Ellis, USA TODAY, November 13, 2014

Supporters of shared parenting for children whose parents are divorced or separated have few victories to claim in their attempts to win family law reforms across the country

  • “It’s been a hard slog, and there’s not a lot to show for those efforts,” said Dr. Ned Holstein, the founder of the National Parents Organization.

Holstein’s organization and other supporters are trying to reverse decades of family law tradition where judges often award custody to one parent – typically the mother – while the non-custodial parents receive less time with their children. In cases that don’t involve allegations of physical abuse, substance abuse or other issues, supporters argue that both parents should have a 50-50 split with children.

But the difficulty in convincing state lawmakers to buck tradition was reflected in a first-ever report card released Thursday by the National Parents Organization. The study evaluated state custody laws and found that most of them are not friendly to shared parenting.

Nearly half the states received a D, while New York and Rhode Island received Fs. No state received an A, but seven states and the District of Columbia received a B. The top scoring states were Alaska and Arizona.

Holstein said judges across the country still rely on decades-old research rooted in Freudian psychoanalysis about what’s best for children. More recent studies have discredited theories that children should only be with their mothers, he said.

Linda Nielsen, a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, agrees. Nielsen has reviewed dozens of studies comparing children who had one custodial parent with children in shared parenting situations. Children in shared parenting situations had lower levels of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, truancy and other negative behaviors than children who lived primarily with a custodial parent, she said.

Nielsen said that judges, lawyers, psychologists, mediators and others who work in family law are often unaware of the research supporting shared parenting.

  • “We’ve done a very poor job of getting the data to those people,” she said. “That’s the fault of social scientists.”

Despite research showing otherwise, many people believe that mothers are better parents than fathers, Nielsen said.

  • “It’s almost one of those issues where people don’t want to look at the research because they have those gut feelings,” she said.

But Linda Scher, a family mediator in Portland, Ore., said judges need flexibility to determine custody issues on a case-by-case basis. She notes that within family law, there is an ongoing battle between those promoting parental rights versus children’s needs.

Shared parenting works well in the right situations, she said. But not necessarily for children who are very young, or for those who need consistency.

  • “You have to look at a menu of factors,” said Scher, who serves as the chair of the Parental Involvement Work Group of the Oregon State Family Law Advisory Committee.

Ultimately, she added, the law in Oregon doesn’t weigh in on whether shared parenting is a good or bad idea.

  • “The parents are in the best position to make that call,” she said.

Despite limited success in legislatures, Holstein said supporters plan to focus efforts in 2015 on legislation that would require judges to consider shared parenting when issuing temporary orders. Those orders are the first step in a divorce proceeding in which a judge establishes initial custody and makes other orders regarding money and living arrangements for the separating couple.

Parenting, Holstein said, is a constitutionally protected practice, and judges who issue temporary orders often know nothing about the couple or about what’s in a child’s best interest.

  • “How can a court honestly declare that they are fashioning something in the best interest of a child when they don’t know the child? They can’t. It cannot be done by definition. Here’s a newly divorcing couple walking into the courtroom, but you know nothing about them,” he said.

And absent changes in family law, Holstein said he can envision a court challenge arguing that parents are being deprived of their constitutional rights to be parents.

 E N D

Appendix 1

Compared to some geographical and political blocs the US  could be said to be galloping ahead in the Shared Parenting(SP) stakes. Of course, the main difference is that those other geographical and political blocs are unitary nations and the US is a loose federation of semi-autonomous states. Consequently there is a great disparity between states while giving an encouraging if misleading average, thus:

 

 

  • “Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 17% of children of separated or divorced parents have shared parenting, which prevents their ability to benefit equally from both parents and has a tremendous impact on their emotional, mental and physical health (see “A New Look at Child Welfare: Single Parenting Versus Shared Parenting”).

 

Compared with the rate of SP in Australia, Belgium, France (and certainly the UK), 17% is a very respectable rate.

Analysis by grades

 

 

  • 0 states received an A
  • 8 states received a B
  • 18 states received a C
  • 23 states received a D
  • 2 states received an F   [these were New York and Rhode Island]

 

 

 

National Parents Organization’s 2014 Shared Parenting Report Card is the first national study to provide a comprehensive ranking of the states on their child custody statutes, assessing them primarily on the degree to which they promote shared parenting after divorce or separation.

 

 

Single Parenting Vs Shared Parenting

The Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Justice, the Census Bureau and numerous researchers have reported alarming outcomes for the 35% of children who are raised by single parents. Yet, until now, this factor has been largely ignored in the conversation about child wellbeing. Children raised by single parents account for:

  • 63% of teen suicides;
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
  • 71% of high school drop-outs;
  • 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
  • 85% of those in prison;
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children

These figures and rates have been ‘standard’ in the US for approximately the past 30 years and there is no likelihood of them changing until SP is adopted more fully.

The question may arise as to just why Alaska and Arizona should represent such outstanding innovation and foresight and how SP is woven into their child custody regulations. The following points may answer some of those questions.

 

 

 

  • Alaska explicitly permits shared custody “if shared custody is determined to be in the best interest of the child.” ALASKA STAT. § 25.20.070
  • Alaska requires that, in issuing temporary orders, “[u]nless it is shown to be detrimental to the welfare of the child … or unless the presumption under ALASKA STAT. § 25.24.150(g) is present, the child shall have, to the greatest degree practical, equal access to both parents during the time that the court considers an award of custody.” ALASKA STAT. § 25.20.070
  • Alaska statutes require, except in cases of domestic abuse, consideration of a “friendly parent” factor: “the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.” ALASKA STAT. § 25.24.150(c)(6)

 

 

 

  • Arizona requires courts to “adopt a parenting plan that provides for both parents to share legal decision-making regarding their child and that maximizes their respective parenting time.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. § 25-403.02
  • Arizona explicitly endorses a “friendly parent” rule. ARIZ. REV. STAT. § 25-403
  • Arizona explicitly requires courts to consider “[w]hether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that

 

Elsewhere in this series of blog sites we have reported on Florida’s earlier attempts to embrace SP. This is what the National Parents Organization’s 2014 Shared Parenting Report Card concluded for Florida:

 

 

  • Florida has a strong statutory presumption of shared parental responsibility: “The court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.” FLA. STAT. § 61.13

 

Appendix 2

THE POLITICS OF KNOWLEDGE

Ivor Catt

Published in The Ethical Record, June 1996.

[Annotated version]

 

In a letter in Wireless World, Nov. 1981, J.L. Linsley Hood writes that “censorship has been effective throughout my own professional career….”. He lists nine authors who could not have been published anywhere else but in Wireless World.

There is usually no conspiracy to suppress heretical ideas. There is no need of one, except in some specific instances, because as Charles McCutcheon wrote in the New Scientist (itself a notorious suppressor, but not as bad as Nature) on 29 April 1976, p.225, “An evolved conspiracy” suffices.

A pivotal event in science was the Michelson-Morley experiment in the 1880’s. I ran into a discussion in the interval at the Royal Institution seminar to celebrate the centenary of the Michelson-Morley experiment. An American who was setting up an international conference on relativity discussed with Prof. Kilmister, one of the lecturers, whether ether buffs should be suppressed at that conference. He also asked how Harold Aspden should be dealt with. That is, he was discussing how to suppress a specific dissident. They concluded that if ether believers kept to Establishment mathematics they should be allowed to put their case. The American, who told me that he was a born-again Christian and had previously been evil, said that he regarded heresy in science much as he regarded heresy in religion. More generally, suppression in science results from fear that a new idea will obstruct the normal, calm progression of academic career progress and research funding.

Suppression is the norm rather than the exception. Even Maddox, editor of Nature, who gave the Ethical Society’s Voltaire Lecture on 18th November 1995, now says he is worried. Maddox says that suppression is increasing. The Daily Telegraph of 1 May 1989 quotes him; “The epoch-making paper by Francis Crick and James Watson outlining the structure of DNA, which appeared in Nature in 1953, would ‘probably not be publishable today’, Maddox laments….”. That is Maddox, the greatest suppressor of all, joining the band-waggon of concern about suppression. With his track record, that is mind-blowing. Scientists have successfully resorted to false authorship (Theocharis), and Lovelock, the inventor of “Gaia”, said on radio that he resorted to a false address to get into Nature.

 

Footnote:

[1] USA TODAY, Nov 13th 2014 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/13/shared-parenting-laws-report-card/18981831/

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