State lawmakers should pass much-needed reform of child-custody laws.
When she and her husband were divorcing, Jennifer Fink felt the way a lot of parents do. She was angry at her husband, thought she was the better parent, and wanted sole custody of their two sons. But the law in her state, Wisconsin, strongly encourages shared parenting of children when Mom and Dad divorce, and that’s what the judge ordered. Now, five years later, Fink, who founded BuildingBoys and is involved in recent efforts to create the White House Council on Boys and Men, has a message for everyone going through a child-custody case:
“I thank the Wisconsin court system for presuming that shared parenting is in the best interest of children, because without that presumption, I’m pretty sure I would have happily assumed the larger portion of parenting and relegated the boys’ dad to a lesser role. And that, I now know, would have been bad for my boys, bad for their dad and bad for me,” Fink revealed in a recent post, “Is Shared Parenting Best for Boys After Divorce?”
The overwhelming weight of scientific research demonstrates that children do better with two parents involved in their lives.
And yet Wisconsin is just one of two states that effectively encourage family judges to order equal — or almost equal — parenting time when parents divorce. Fortunately, many other states are considering following suit. This year, around 20 state legislatures are considering some form of equal-parenting legislation.
Indeed, one of the major factors behind our epidemic of fatherlessness is family courts that routinely consign one parent, usually the father, to mere visitor status in his children’s lives. Typically, non-custodial parents see their kids four days per month, plus a few hours one night per week, plus a few weeks during the summer. That usually works out to between 14 percent and 20 percent of the time.
As Fink so accurately says, that’s bad for kids. The overwhelming weight of scientific research demonstrates that children do better with two parents involved in their lives. Federal statistics show that kids with two parents are more likely to do well in school, stay out of jail, stay away from drugs and alcohol, avoid teen pregnancy, avoid depression, and, as adults, be gainfully employed than are their peers with a single parent.