Ethics & Religion
Sept. 14, 2017
Shared Parenting - A Major Answer
By Mike McManus
A Shared Parenting Act was introduced by Rep. Jim Runestad in the
Michigan Legislature that would give divorced fathers shared custody and
equal parenting time with their children as mothers.
"Divorced fathers are devalued, disparaged and forcefully disengaged
from their children's lives,' asserts Dr. Edward Kruk, who leads
Co-Parenting After Divorce. "Researchers have found that for children,
the results are nothing short of disastrous." Some 71% of high school
dropouts are fatherless and 85% of youth in prison have an absent
Runestad reports, "Non-custodial parents can expect to spend only four
overnights a month with their children, including school nights.
Therefore, many dads miss out on the rites of passage of parenthood
dropping their children off at school, packing them a lunch, or helping
them write papers and study for important exams.'
His bill would grant "shared custody and substantially equal parenting
time as a starting point in custody deliberations." The couple could
agree to a 60-40 or 70-30 split of time, but would begin with a 50-50
assumption, not the 92.5% - 7.5% assumption of most divorces.
Children need both parents in an intact marriage. If there is a divorce,
children still need both parents.
Shared Parenting is a major answer, which has been passed by Arizona,
Kentucky and Missouri. A Michigan House committee passed Runestad's
bill, and he expects a positive vote this fall in the House. Prospects
look good in the Senate. The Lt. Governor introduced a similar bill.
Children feel abandoned when their fathers are not in their lives, and
struggle with fears, episodic bouts of self-loathing (sparking excessive
suicides). "They are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems, have
difficulties making friends, and many develop a swaggering intimidating
persona in an attempt to disguise their underlying fears, resentments,
anxieties and unhappiness," reports Dr. Kruk.
This emotional turmoil leads to poor academic performance and truancy.
Some 71% of high school dropouts are fatherless, which leads many to
delinquency and crime. They are also more likely to go to jail as
Runestad's bill would call on parties who oppose shared parenting to
prove that such an arrangement is harmful to children. He says, "Proving
harm is not an onerous requirement, considering that we are talking
about parents being stripped of their most basic parental rights."
In Michigan alone, more tha a half million children live in a home
without any male presence. "We have a post-divorce child custody system
that systematically creates thousands of fatherless homes every year,"
However, his bill has met stiff opposition from a wide swath of groups
including the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, the
National Association of Social Workers and the Michigan Judge's
Association Family Law Committee.
Rebecca Shiemki, a family law attorney with the Michigan Poverty Law
Program, said the current law is working and what's being proposed would
take the focus off the child. "Establishing presumptions really remove
the focus in child custody disputes from what's best for the child to a
parent's right to equal time with their child."
The Michigan Supreme Court looked into the issue and found that in 2013.
Only 7% of divorce cases awarded the father full custody while mothers
won full custody in 51% of cases. In 40% of cases, parents were awarded
joint custody. However, in practice, that meant the father had only two
overnights with the child every other weekend.
How can it be "what's best for the child" for full custody to be awarded
to either parent?
One need only look at the data. In 2015 Census reported there were
1,159,000 divorces compared to only 2,077,000 marriages. That's a 53.4%
divorce rate. Since 1975 there has been one divorce for every two
marriages - for four decades.
The major reason for America's sky high divorce rate is that every state
has passed "No Fault Divorce," in which one spouse declares there are
"irreconcilable differences," though 80% of their partners disagree. In
the old days, a spouse had to prove their partner was guilty of a major
fault - adultery, abuse, abandonment. No Fault erased protection of the
innocent and awarded custody to destroyers of marriage.
Children of divorce are the losers. They are three times more likely to
be expelled from school or to have a child as a teenager - as those from
intact homes, and are five times more likely to live in poverty, six
times more apt to commit suicide, and 12 times more likely to be
Shared Parenting offers those kids a new green light of hope.
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
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