Shared parenting reduces child abuse and neglect.
Why? Abusers are identified up-front and denied shared parenting when courts are doing their job. Guardrails include protective orders, ex parte orders, child protective services, domestic violence (DV) counseling for parents, escape networks and much more.
Child protective services – Department of Children and Families, DCF, in Connecticut – has well defined methods for identifying abusers. They investigate thousands of reports of child abuse and neglect every year, usually within 60 days. They do this at no charge to the parents of the children involved. Likewise, domestic violence between two parents should be recognized by Family Court as grounds for denying parenting time and responsibility to the abuser.
Family Court needs to emulate DCF by clearly identifying unfit parents and making sure that they do no harm to the other parent or their children. And it should do this at no cost to the parents, just as DCF does not charge families. Instead, parents claiming that the other parent is unfit need to hire their own lawyers and litigate through an overcrowded court system. This leads to long delays during which the abused parent and children are at risk, and it can impoverish parents who are paying for lawyers and court ordered professionals such as Guardian’s Ad Litem (GALs).
But what if the accused parent is found not guilty of abuse or neglect? Or the many cases where abuse is not an issue? Then the vast majority of published academic research shows that outcomes for children are greatly improved by equal time parenting responsibilities. A recent op-ed by Maureen Martowska, Genevieve DeLuca and Martin Kulldorff says that “It is every child’s right to live free from abuse. … Protecting women and children should be a top priority for the Connecticut legislature. This is not an issue of men versus women though, nor an issue of mothers versus fathers. It is about abusers versus the abused, as fathers can also be abused. According to a Centers for Disease Control survey, 32.5% of women and 24.6% of men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. Among abused children, 24% were abused by their father only, 38% by their mother only, 20% by both parents, 14% by non-parents, with 3% unknown.”
The article by Martowska, DeLuca and Kulldorff goes on to show that Family Court makes the situation worse by embroiling the parents in costly, time consuming and often fruitless litigation that disadvantages a DV victim and abused children. (Read the full article here)
Family Court badly needs reform, but good reform needs to be based on fact. Here are some facts that should guide reform:
Collaborative Divorce: Seeing the detrimental effects that court proceedings can have on children and families, many family law attorneys are advocating for and engaging in mediation and collaborative divorce as a healthier alternative. [1, 2]
Child Custody: Epidemiologic research overwhelmingly shows that children with near-equal-time shared parenting do better, and that holds independently of socio-economic levels and parental conflict. Reviewing all shared parenting studies, professor Linda Nielsen concluded that “Children in shared-parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody families. The measures of well-being included: academic achievement, emotional health (anxiety, depression, self-esteem, life satisfaction), behavioral problems (delinquency, school misbehavior, bullying, drugs, alcohol, smoking), physical health and stress-related illnesses, and relationships with parents, stepparents, and grandparents.” Within the epidemiological and psychological child custody research community, including leading domestic violence experts such as professors Emily Douglas and Denise Hines, there is now strong support for shared parenting. [3, 4, 5, 6]
Domestic Abuse: Parents need strategies to deal with domestic abuse during and after divorce, including information about (i) domestic abuse support networks, (ii) when supervised visitation is and is not appropriate, and (iii) how shared parenting can prevent parental alienation, a form of child abuse that deliberately separates a child from a loving parent. [7, 8, 9]
Parents and Tax-Payers: While evidence based parental education is designed to improve the health and well-being of children, there are also advantages to parents and tax-payers. For example, shared parenting allows both parents to pursue their careers with equal effort, and it can be an effective way to close the gender pay gap. Moreover, family court trials are expensive for tax payers who are responsible for court operations, and less parental conflict means fewer trials. Better child health and behavior also saves tax dollars. [10, 11, 12]
 A. M. Hamilton, “Divorce, Collaborative Style,” Hartford Courant, 27 September 2012.
 M. K. Pruett and J. H. DiFonzo, “Closing te Gap: Research, Policy, Practicce and Shared Parenting,” Family Court Review, vol. 52, pp. 152-174, 2014.
 L. Nielsen, “Joint versus sole physical custody: Children’s outcomes independent of parent–child relationships, income, and conflict in 60 studies,” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, vol. 59, pp. 247-281, 2018.
 L. Nielsen, “10 surprising findings on shared parenting after divorce or separation,” Institute for Family Studies, 20 June 2017.
 R. A. Warshak, “Social science and parenting plans for young children: A consensus report,” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, vol. 20, pp. 46-67, (endosed by 110 leading family scientists and practioners) 2014.
 Leading Women for Shared Parenting, “Leading Women as of March15, 2017,” www.lw4sp.org.
 E. Kruk, “Parental alienation: What is the solution?,” Psychology Today, 16 November 2017.
 G. Gentile, Erasing family (movie documentary), 2019.
 D. A. Hines, E. M. Douglas and J. L. Beger, “A Self‐Report Measure of Legal and Administrative Aggression Within Intimate Relationships,” Aggressive Behavior, vol. 41, pp. 295-309, 2015.
 E. Johnson, “How shared parenting laws promote gender equality,” Moms for Shared Parenting, 15 August 2019.
 E. Anzilotti, “Are custody laws standing in the way of gender equity?,” Fast Company, 3 April 2017.
 N. Holstein, “Remove obstacles to shared parenting,” The Birkshire Eagle, 2 January 2015.