Category: CustodyPosted by Larry Herren on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 4:13 PM
Kids need both parents
I make no apologies for being a shared parenting advocate. As a family therapist, I've understood for years that kids need both parents. But in 2003, the clinical benefits that are achieved for children in shared parenting and the negative outcomes that often result when a parent is under involved became even more meaningful to me when my son was born.
Yet with all the research and understanding, a minute few still try and argue that the need for shared parenting somehow changes in a divorce or never married dynamic. Unfounded rationalizations include "schlepping from one house to the other is burdensome for kids and they'll do better if they have one primary home." Fact is, most family therapists and research concludes that as long as the environment is safe, predictable and consistent, children do fine in multiple environments. However, they do poorly when the frequency of contact with their parent is restricted to a visitor status and the voids then created tend to be acted out in highly destructive ways.
As a valued family clinician once told me early on in my case, a child's need for a healthy attachment and loving relationship with both parents trumps any need for one residence, neighborhood, etc. It takes real time to develop and maintain that sort of relationship. I've seen this truth illustrated in my child's life. He spends equal time between two homes that are 30 miles apart but he's thriving in every way. Not surprising, children, like adults, define relationships by the frequency of contact and quality of time they spend with someone so regardless of a marital status, it requires a quantity of time to authenticate a parental role. If you're being challenged in your legal ability to achieve something to that end, retain an experienced family law attorney who understands what the Michigan Parenting Time Guideline states:
Michigan statutes recognize that when parents separate or divorce, their children's best interests are served by continuation of the parent/child relationship. So strong is this recognition that the law establishes a presumption that it is in the best interests of a children to have strong relationships with both parents. Therefore, parenting time should be of a frequency, duration and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the children and parent. The children have a right to parenting time unless the court determines on the record by clear and convincing evidence that parenting time would endanger the children's physical, mental or emotional health [MCL 722.27a].
Calculating parenting time in a frequency, duration and type that promotes strong relationships between children and their parents. Sounds like a novel idea, certainly nothing that requires sophisticated clinical training or legal brilliance, yet this remains the single most controversial aspect of divorce. One reason why is that some parents continue fighting by trying to use children as pawns to control and hurt the other parent.
Make no mistake about it, taking a willing parent out of the mix of parenting will ultimately hurt and scar your children.
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Larry, I totally agree with your statement, "Kids need both parents ! " The stateement can be backed up by numerous studies, Steve Nock, University of Virginia ,2008( Positive Economic effects of both parent namely father involvement), Philip Cowan, University of California,2009 ( reduction of parental stress, relationship quality, and reduction of children's problem behavior), Katherine Mitchell, Louisiana State University,2009 ( involvement improves well being ), and Lawrence Berger, University of Wisconsin-Madison,2008 ( Benefits to children in terms of child support compliance and financial contributions.
It is sad that many parents continue to relitigate cases that have been decided. Judges are empowered to protect children, they have the authority to protect them from parents that induce mental abuse continually by relitigating. At a minimum the moving party should cover all expenses including court costs and attorney fees for all the parties continuing to use the court as a battlefield for their own agenda. It is wise to look seriously at what one is trying to accomplish by relitigating. If one is continuing to fight and file motions, it may be wise to seek the help of a mental health professional for a complete mental health examination of competence to file motions ( One should rule out Mood disorders, Personality disorders, thought disorders and co-morbidities ). In California, when a party continues to relitigate full custody is given to the party that promotes the MOST time with the other parent. Another way of saying the same thing is that the party who files the most motions, interfering with the other parent and their time. By default and the order of the Judge, full custody goes to the parent who has to defend themselves from frivolous motions. In conclusion, a child needs both parents unless one parent is using the child as a weapon to sabotage that other parents relationship. If that is the case, the court should step in and order full custody to the parent that continues to be victimized by frivolous motions and assess court costs, attorney fees and child support obligations to the moving party who continues the fight !
Your post is an interesting and powerful argument that shared parenting orders should be the rule, rather than the exception. In most custody cases, both parents are willing and able to participate in shared parenting. It's a tragedy that so many parents, dads or moms, spend so much money and time fighting over their roles when their children are in need of both of them equally. It's also sad that the thousands of dollars they're spending on attorneys and court fees is money that could be used for other things like vacations with their kids, or sports and other extra calicular activities and obviously, with the rising costs of education it's money that could be put away for college.
Absolutely! Shared parenting, by definition in the Michigan Parenting Time Guidelines and multitudes of research that conclude what common sense dictates, is presumed to be in the best interest of children yet it remains the exception rather than the rule in a majority of custody and parenting time orders. Trends are slowly, but absolutely, changing but when parents disagree, the system remains unnecessarily expensive and ripe for manipulation and that has to change.
Thanks for your comments,