WEST DAILY NEWS -
October 30, 2004
Ned Holstein / Guest Columnist
member of Fathers and Families juggled his shifts so he could pick his
pre-school daughter up from daycare every day at 2:00 p.m., while mom was still
at work. He would tuck her in for her nap, make her dinner, play with her after
dinner, and read stories to her at bedtime. She giggled when he croaked like
Kermit, and shrieked with delight when he swung her in circles.
After he and his wife divorced, he was allowed to see his daughter every other
weekend, and she was in daycare 10 hours per day.
Can there be any doubt that this child was wounded, and that
she mourns the loss of her father? Almost everyone knows a child who has
Of course, there are some cases where joint custody is not best for children,
such as where there is domestic violence, or where there are practical obstacles
such as parents living far apart. The ballot question explicitly addresses these
concerns. Also, that's why this ballot question is non-binding, so that
responsible legislators such as state Rep. Stephen LeDuc, D-Marlborough,
co-chairman of the legislature's Children's Caucus, will have flexibility. They
will be able to fashion detailed legislation that will nudge the family courts
towards shared parenting without taking away the judge's discretion to do what
is best for children in each individual circumstance.
Here's why our children deserve the voters' support for joint custody. False
alarms about the dangers in a minority of cases should not stand in the way of
what's best for most kids. We can help the great majority and also protect the
few who need protection.
Shared parenting after divorce is best for children. Research over the past
twenty years proves this more and more conclusively. That's why, for instance,
Dr. Michael Lamb, Head of the Section of Social and Emotional Development at the
National Institutes of Health, has written, "...Parenting plans that allow
children to see their fathers every Wednesday evening and every other weekend
clearly fail to recognize the adverse consequences of weeklong separations from
non-custodial parents...Instead of promoting parenting plans that marginalize
one of the parents, custody evaluators should promote continued involvement by
Kids want shared parenting. Distinguished researcher Robert Emery in
Shared parenting is the only measure that reliably increases child support
compliance. Researcher Sanford Braver found that when joint custody was awarded,
child support zoomed up to 97 percent compliance.
Shared parenting is the fairest arrangement for parents. No parent wants to walk
into court as a father (or mother), and walk out as a "visitor."
Sole custody creates conflict, joint custody alleviates it. Many divorcing
couples engage in bitter custody battles. These are totally unnecessary, and
could be prevented by assuring both parents that neither will lose custody.
Afterwards, the sole custody decision promotes still more conflict. As attorney
Ronald Henry has written "The parents still must deal with one another in
connection with all aspects of the child's life, but they do so in the unstable
and unhealthy relationship of victor and vanquished."
Shared parenting probably decreases post-divorce domestic violence. It is well
known anecdotally that conflict provoked by sole custody sometimes boils over
Sole custody freezes parents in stereotyped gender roles. Fathers, bearing large
child support orders, must be breadwinners, often working two jobs, and have no
time or legal right to be real parents. Mothers are trapped into nearly
full-time motherhood, and most are unable to manage an ambitious career.
This ballot question will run in all or in part in
Ned Holstein is president of Fathers and Families in