A new group is emerging that may finally change the way Family Courts treat mothers and fathers.
Currently, the default in most states is to award the lion's share of the time with the children to mothers, and require the father to pay child support. This is unfair to fathers, and has resulted in massive abuses within the system, leading to fathers committing suicide and being imprisoned. A new organization I am a part of, Leading Women for Shared Parenting, seeks to remedy this inequality by having women and mothers speak up in favor of shared parenting. When legislators realize that women themselves are in favor of reversing this bias, they should finally change the laws to make the default a presumption of 50/50 equally shared custody.
Fathers' rights organizations have tried for years to change the status quo, but have not quite pulled it off, no doubt due to the growing stigma against men in society. Being called sore losers and deadbeats who only want to lower their child support has marginalized them.
Continually, between 78 and 87 percent of both men and women support shared parenting – and there is no statistical difference between the sexes. Dr. William Fabricius, an Associate Professor of Psychology of at Arizona State University, discovered these results when polling residents in Pima County, Arizona. He also found that polls taken in Canada and a vote in Massachusetts revealed very similar results. But sadly, Fabricius writes, "there is a very sizable gap between current popular views strongly favoring equal custody, as reflected in polls and votes on custody allocation, and actual legal outcomes."
The reason we don't have shared parenting is because it's a big business. Family law attorneys make too much money off the years of legal fighting, and the state bar associations help their own keep their greedy claws controlling the system by lobbying state legislatures to oppose shared parenting bills.
There is significant research showing that shared parenting is best for kids. There are over three dozen medical studies which indicate that shared parenting arrangements – joint decision-making and near-equal parenting time – provide the best outcomes for children. The studies also reveal that parenting time of every other weekend, commonly ordered by judges, is harmful to children.
The stereotype that women are more nurturing than men has been challenged by a study published a couple of years ago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that fatherhood awakens men's nurturing side. Testosterone levels in men fall 30 percent after they become fathers, and even more when the children are infants and when the fathers are significantly involved with child rearing.
According to a report released this month from Pew Research Analysis, women aren't staying at home anymore, dependent upon men earning an income to support them. Mothers are the sole or primary source of income for a record 40 percent of households with children. This is almost a 400 percent increase from 1960, when just 11 percent of mothers were the breadwinners.
What sister, mother, grandmother, or daughter hasn't had a brother, father or son suffer within the unjust family law system? Many women end up helping their male relative pay his child support and legal fees. I have no children of my own, but have spent money and countless hours helping male relatives with legal proceedings related to child custody and child support.
No doubt as a result of this broad unfairness, the women who are a part of this new organization surprisingly range from conservative Phyllis Schlafly to a former president of the feminist National Organization of Women. With agreement all across the political spectrum, there is a tremendous chance that state legislators will be able to fight off the slick lobbyists from bar associations and pass shared custody legislation.
Legislators must also fight against pressure to substitute watered-down bills that do not provide for approximately 50/50 shared custody. "Joint custody" is often little more than a semantic difference from "sole custody." Joint custody generally gives one parent much more time and control, as well as child support from the other parent. Unless one parent has committed abuse, serious crimes, or similar circumstances, the default should be a presumption of equally shared parenting.
Children – including daughters – who were withheld from their fathers while growing up, who saw their fathers living out of their cars and crippled financially, have now become adults and are saying enough. It is way overdue to stop appeasing Big Law at the expense of families. Now, a group of Leading Women is speaking out.