Thank you, Michelle Obama!
As a mother of a divorced dad who’s been fighting for shared parenting legislation, I’d like to thank our former first lady for her insensitive and cavalier remarks concerning divorced dads and parenting when she compared the Trump era to "living with divorced dad."
In just one riveting sound bite, Michelle Obama brought to light the dangerous misperceptions that our family courts and legislators have about parenting and divorce.
Maybe some divorced dads (and moms) are terrible parents, as Michelle depicts. But that’s not relevant when it comes to shared parenting and family court reform. There’s a bigger issue, and that’s about how much time and responsibility each fit, able, and willing parent of divorce gets to have with their children.
National Parents Organization (NPO), a nonprofit determined to change family law across the country, just released a national survey showing that 86 percent of Americans (adult men and women) are in favor of equal parenting rights and responsibilities in cases of divorce or separation.
This gives both parents the chance to work, relax, and actively participate in their children’s lives. The burden to work doesn’t just fall on dad and the opportunity to actively parent doesn’t just get awarded to mom. And yet, only one state in the nation – Kentucky – has a true shared parenting law, which was only passed into law last year as a result of NPO’s efforts.
Why the disconnect and why the comments by the former first lady? Some are misperception and lack of knowledge about the benefits of shared parenting -- and the proven dangers of single parenting on kids. There are numerous studies that make clear the facts surrounding children with only one active parent in their lives. They are at risk in a number of ways: addiction rates are higher; school dropout numbers are staggering; they have a higher incidence of gang involvement, and the list goes on.
A large part of the problem centers on the fact that divorce attorneys do not want to change the adversarial nature of child custody orders. They are resistant to change. If couples going through divorce worked amicably, legal fees would drop significantly. If both parents share in the responsibilities and the law supported this, ensuring both parents are able to spend ample time with their kids, it would make splitting up more amicable and equitable -- and, without question, benefit the children. Family Court reform is about putting children first. It’s a win-win-win for both parents and their children.
So, while we’re angered by Michelle Obama’s biased comments and the notion that fathers can be made fun of, we’re glad she opened the door to this important issue.
To get involved in the fight for shared parenting, visit https://www.nationalparentsorganization.org/