Column: Involve experts in Shared Parenting debate
Imagine taking your child for treatment of a serious illness and the physician saying, "We don't pay any attention to the research."
You'd think the doctor guilty of malpractice, for willful ignorance of your child's affliction. Yet a similar situation happens with an issue impacting 1.5 million US children annually, including in North Dakota.
Divorce is difficult, and kids in intact families do better than those experiencing divorce. But divorced kids can't be lumped together, as one category fares nearly as well as intact families and another, much worse.
This isn't the opinion of advocates pursuing legislation in Bismarck. Over 100 experts in psychology, child development, child attachment, domestic violence and conflict said: "To maximize children's chances of having long lasting relationships and secure attachments to each parent, Warshak's consensus report encourages both parents after their separation to maximize the time they spend with their children, including the sharing of overnight parenting time."
Why did experts take such a drastic step?
"The experts are united in their concern that flawed science is leading to parenting plans and custody decisions that harm children and their parents."
Shared Parenting is supported by 43 peer-reviewed papers including the largest study, analyzing 150,000 kids. Psychologist William Fabricius found such arrangements improve children's relationships with both fathers and mothers, and since 2012, Arizona attorneys tell fathers there's a 90 percent chance children will receive equal parenting time with all agreeing, it's working well. Alternatively, children in primarily sole physical custody don't fare well with an estimated 30 percent losing all contact with one parent. Republicans should address fatherlessness as it's linked to every major social pathology in children, including: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, unwed pregnancies, psychological disorders and suicide.
Why isn't shared parenting prevalent? Because divorce is big business.
Instead of hearing psychologists studying parenting plans, "Establishment Politics" ensues with legislators overwhelmed by special interests (State Bar Association of North Dakota) whose financial incentives are tied to conflict. Shared parenting doesn't help them.
In reviewing its implementation in Australia, Dr. Edward Kruk found: "A marked reduction in child custody litigation has also been noted since the new legislation, with applications to court over child custody falling by a staggering 72 percent. Corresponding to decreased litigation has been a marked increase in the use of family relationship centers and family mediation services. And most Australian parents now resolve parenting arrangements without the use of any legal services."
When its lawyers versus kids, kids lose.
If your child had a serious affliction, you'd want doctors listening to experts, not associations.
North Dakota's children deserve likewise as senators consider shared parenting.
The world's best researchers will soon assemble at the International Conference on Shared Parenting and North Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee members should attend. In the interim, should any senator desire to connect with those experts, North Dakota Kids Win and Leading Women for Shared Parenting will facilitate.
When creating laws impacting kids, expert voices should take precedence over the legal establishment.
Brennan is a co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.