We invite interested scholars, child and family professionals, and members of civil society to join us in this exciting new co-parenting venture.
We are looking for reporting proposals that dive deeply into a region or reach broadly across the country, particularly those with potential for radio. (If you have radio skills, that’s a plus.). We plan to establish reporting partnerships in some cases, award freelance contracts in others. This initiative will continue into 2017, so ambitious ideas are welcome.
The first international shared parenting organization has been established to develop evidence-based approaches to the needs and rights of children whose parents are living apart.
Responding to the alarming increase in psycho-social and developmental problems among children whose parents are living apart, 26 leading research scientists, family professionals and representatives of civil society from 11 countries gathered in Bonn, Germany, on 21-23 February 2014 to found a new international organization focused on the feasibility of shared parenting as a viable and beneficial solution for children.
“Justice is a part of the human makeup. And if you deprive a person of Justice on a continuous basis, it’s really an attack (and not to get religious or anything) but it’s an attack on the human soul. We have, as societies, evolved ideas of Justice and we have done that because human nature needs Justice and it needs resolution. And if you deprive somebody of that long enough they’re going to have reactions…”
The new association will be known as the International Council on Shared Parenting (ICSP). Shared parenting, according the organization’s by-laws, refers to the equivalent, alternating care of children by their separated parents. The purpose of the association is first, the dissemination and advancement of scientific knowledge on the needs and rights (“best interests”) of children whose parents are living apart, and second, to formulate evidence-based recommendations about the legal, judicial and practical implementation of shared parenting.
Your correspondent, Edward Kruk, of the University of British Columbia (Canada), was elected as President of the new association. The international Council on Shared Parenting is the only international, research-centered association to focus squarely on the emerging paradigm of shared parenting. We have compiled a large body of new research examining child and parent outcomes in shared parenting families, and we seek to integrate this scientific data into family law, policy, and professional practice in the best interests of children.
Vice President Dr. Chantal Clot-Grangeat, Chambéry (France), stated, “Our aim is to find solutions for reducing the problems of children known to arise from family breakdown, such as diminished self-esteem, depression, and possible parental alienation, as well as educational failure, substance abuse, and trouble with the law.”
The trial court modified the parenting plan to designate Father as the primary residential parent.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.
Mother argued her failure to notify Father of Child’s relocation to Texas was a “single violation” that did not rise to the level of a material change justifying a change of custody.
Tennessee courts apply a two-step analysis to requests to change the primary residential parent designation. The threshold issue is whether a material change in circumstance has occurred since the court’s prior custody order. Only if a material change in circumstance has occurred does the court consider whether a modification is in the child’s best interest.
In determining whether a material change has occurred, courts consider the following factors: (1) whether a change has occurred after the entry of the order sought to be modified; (2) whether a change was not known or reasonably anticipated when the order was entered; and (3) whether a change is one that affects the child’s well-being in a meaningful way.
Not every change in circumstance is a material change; the change must be significant before it will be considered material. However, the change does not have to pose a substantial risk of harm to the child. A material change of circumstance may include, but is not limited to, failures to adhere to the parenting plan.
Mother is correct that courts are disinclined to allow a single incident to serve as the basis for changing a primary residential parent designation. For example, in Beckham v. Beckham, the Court stated:
[A]n apparently isolated episode of poor judgment . . . is insufficient to establish a material change of circumstance. If that were the case, no parent ever would be able to maintain custody of his or her children as parents are inherently human and fallible. A parent is not required to be perfect or error free in his/her parenting in order to avoid there being a material change of circumstances.
After reviewing the record, the Court concluded:
[W]e find Mother’s argument unavailing because the lack of notice of her move to Texas is not the sole basis for finding a material change in circumstance. The change in circumstance can best be described as a lack of stability in the life of Mother since she was designated primary residential parent. As the record reflects, Mother’s move to Texas was not her only move, and Mother’s moves have directly impacted [Child] by necessitating changes in schools. As Mother conceded, [Child’s] support system has been “rocky.” At the same time, while his life may have lacked stability at the time of the divorce due to his military career and deployments, Father’s life has become more stable.
After a thorough review of the record, we find that Father did show a material change in circumstance. Mother’s move to Texas, by itself, may not rise to the level of a material change in circumstance, but the Texas move coupled with the prior eleven years of moves does.
Accordingly, the trial court’s change of custody was affirmed.
Skowronski v. Wade (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, October 27, 2015).
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family Law Attorney.