Pennsylvania Equal Shared Parenting Legislation

I recently attended hearings on the Equal Shared Parenting legislation introduced to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  As a clinical psychologist with a specialty in child and family therapy, I am in full support of this proposed legislation. 

I’m in California.  I flew back to Harrisburg just to stand with these parents in support of this legislation.

It is well-crafted, thoughtful, and well-considered legislation that will be immensely helpful in solving family conflict surrounding divorce and children.  It will provide substantial support for clinical psychology and for the successful transitions of families to healthy separated family structures following divorce.

As a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialty in child and family therapy, I urge the passage of this bill in Pennsylvania, and of similar legislation throughout the United States and other nations.  Equal shared parenting is the correct thing to do.

Rebuttal to Opposing Testimony

There was testimony in opposition to the legislation.  The opposition arguments were all offered from legal professionals.  The committee did not hear from any representatives from clinical psychology and family therapy.  This was unfortunate, because the testimony from the legal professionals was not consistent with the knowledge from clinical psychology and family therapy.

Their testimony was incorrect.

Absent knowledge from clinical child and family psychology, errors in decision-making surrounding solving child and family conflict will occur.

As a clinical psychologist, I am offering this rebuttal to the arguments presented in opposition to the Equal Shared Parenting legislation.

The two primary arguments were “Best Interest of the Child” and the value of a legal “Presumption” in the court’s decision-making.  An additional argument was offered involving child abuse and Intimate Partner Violence, but this argument was insufficiently organized to warrant response here, and I will address it separately to maintain the clarity to this rebuttal.

1. Best Interests of the Child

This is important, and it will be central to everyone’s understanding in order to reach resolution… what is meant by the term, “best interests of the child,” how is that constuct defined?

I’m certain Nazi Germany had a definition for the “best interests of the child,” and I’m confident that it was not an accurate definition.  It is crucial and central to resolution of this discussion that the term “best interests of the child” receive adequate understanding and definition.

This will then allow us to move forward into developing solutions.

First, it is important to understand that forensic psychology openly admits that they do NOT have an adequate definition for this construct (Stahl & Simon, 2013), and I will argue that an operational definition for this construct is fundamentally impossible, and inappropriate, outside of child abuse and child protection concerns.

Parents have the fundamental right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.  If there is no child abuse, then parents have the right to parent, and our society should be extremely circumspect in empowering magistrates to separate children from parents when there are no child protection concerns.

Magistrates should not be empowered to decide on cultural, personal, or religious values in parenting, and any decision beyond a child protection concern will, by necessity, be ruling on just those factors.  By itself, the construct of personal values will have broad latitude in parenting.  Parents have a right to parent.  If it is not child abuse, then empowering magistrates to judge parents as “deserving” or “not deserving” to be a parent should be of concern.

Parents have the right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.  Magistrates should allow broad latitude to that foundational parental right before separating parents from children.

Second, forensic psychology has no definition for the construct of the “child’s best interests.”

This is acknowledged by Stahl & Simon, forensic psychologists who literally wrote the book on child custody evaluations for the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association,

Stahl, P.M. and Simon, R.A. (2013). Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony, Chicago, IL: Section of Family Law of the American Bar Association. 

This is what Stahl and Simon say about the definition of the construct “best interests of the child.”

From Stahl & Simon: “A critical subject facing those working in the field of family law, whether they’re legal professionals or psychological professionals, is the concept of the best interests of the children. Even recognized experts in this concept differ with regard to what it means, how it should be determined, and what factors should be considered in determining what is in the best interest of a child. Thus, this ubiquitous term escapes consensus and remains fundamentally vague.” (Stahl & Simon, 2013, p. 10-11)

From Stahl & Simon: “It is defined differently from state to state; and even in Arizona, where there are nine statutory factors associated with the best interest of the child, the meaning behind many of the factors is obscure.  Additionally, when psychologists refer to the best interests of children, they are referring to a hierarchical set of factors that may have different meanings to different children with different families and that may be understood differently by psychologists with different backgrounds and different training.” (Stahl & Simon, 2013, p. 11)

In testimony before the committee in Pennsylvania, a father reported on a period following court restrictions on his time and involvement with his child when he became ill, seriously ill, and potentially terminally ill. We are grateful and happy for his recovery.

And this is important to understand as to why it is impossible – impossible – to render a judgement regarding the “best interests of the child” except for child abuse and child protection concerns. What if he had died?

We are all grateful and happy that this father survived and is with us still.  What is important to realize is, had the father died, the construct of the child’s “best interests” that was considered just months before, would have been grossly in error and extremely NOT in the child’s best interests.

If a son or daughter only has a short time left with a parent, their mother or father, it is always in the child’s best interest to spend abundant amounts of time with this parent, before the parent leaves us and this opportunity is lost to the child and is no longer available.

And this is the important point, determining the “best interests” of the child would require that we know what the future holds.  We can’t know of the father’s loss ahead of time.  We can’t predict the future.  We will never know what the future holds, so we cannot answer that question. 

That question is fundamentally unanswerable. 

If there is child abuse, we diagnose child abuse and protect the child.  If there is no child abuse, then we fix conflict and restore relationships of bonded love and affection in the family, because we can’t predict the future, our time may be short, who knows, and bonds of love and affection are too important to be lost.

If there is family conflict, we fix it. That’s a treatment issue, not a custody issue.

Mothers are not expendable in the lives of their sons, in the lives of their daughters.   Fathers are not expendable in the lives of their sons, in the lives of their daughters.  Is that a faulty presumption?  No, that is an established fact. 

Proof:  We have all had childhoods, we have all had mothers and fathers, we can all reference our own childhoods and direct personal experience for proof.  Was your mother important to you? Was your father important to you?

For my proof, I cite you and your own personal experience.  Mothers are not expendable in the lives of their sons and daughters, father’s are not expendable in the lives of their daughters and sons.  Children flourish when they receive abundant love from the mother and abundant love from their father.

Equal Shared Parenting is the correct approach for legal decision-making following divorce.

There are four types of parent-child bond, each is unique: mother-son, father-son, mother-daughter, father-daughter.

Each is unique, each is immensely valuable, none are interchangeable or replaceable, and none are expendable.  Reference your own personal experience for proof of that.

The only rational definition of a child’s best interests is that the son or daughter always benefits from receiving abundant love from his or her father and mother, in the wonderfully unique and special way that develops between them.

There is no “better parent” – there is mother, there is father.  Each unique, each special, each wonderful.

If there are child protection concerns, diagnose child abuse and protect the child. There are four DSM-5 diagnoses in the Child Maltreatment Section of the DSM-5; Child Physical Abuse (V995.54), Child Sexual Abuse (V995.53), Child Neglect (V995.52), Child Psychological Abuse (V995.51).  If there are child protection concerns, diagnose child abuse and protect the child.

If, however, there are no child abuse concerns accompanied by a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, then parents have the right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.  There is no rational or supported reason to give primacy to any of the unique parent-child bonds, each is unique to itself, they are all of equal value and importance.

Equal Shared Parenting is the correct approach following divorce.

A presumption that each parent should have as much time and involvement with the child as possible is always in the child’s best interests.  How that is practically met becomes the only consideration.  Equal Shared Parenting is defined as broadly a 60% to 40% time share, with latitude provided to reasonable factors.

While according to Stahl and Simon, forensic psychology does not have a clear definition for the best interests of the child, clinical psychology does.  It’s that picture.Slide35

It is always in the child’s best interests for the family to make a successful transition following divorce to a healthy separated family structure of shared bonds of affection between the child and both parents, mother and father, son and daughter, a tapestry of unique relationships.

Clinical psychology focuses on treatment, and the recommendation to the family courts from clinical psychology is to similarly focus on treatment rather than custody.

A focus on custody, especially litigation that encourages parents to prove the other parent to be a “bad parent.” is destructive to our ability to achieve a healthy separated family structure.  A presumption of equal value to the father and mother in the lives of a son and daughter will support the family’s successful transition to a healthy separated family structure of following divorce.

The child belongs to two families, unites two families into the very fabric of who the child is, two family cultures, two family lineages, two family bonds to mother and to father. This is the fabric of the child.  If there is parent-child conflict, we fix it. We do not expel a mother of father from the life of their son or daughter.

If there are child abuse concerns, then we diagnose them and we protect the child. 

If there are no diagnosed child abuse concerns, then we fix things.  For a child to reject a parent is for the child to reject half of themselves, half of their very being.  We don’t divide children as a “custody prize” to be won by the “better parent” – we respect the unique and immense value to the child of a mother, of a father, that unique bond in the life of that young boy, that young girl. 

Mother’s are not expendable in the life of their child.  Father’s are not expendable in the life of the child, the are of equal value.

Equal Shared Parenting legislation will reduce the family conflict surrounding the child, with a clear messages of the court’s support for the child’s bond to mother and to father, love and bonding are good things for the child.  Equal Shared Parenting following divorce supports the child’s healthy attachment bonding and psychological development.

Equal shared parenting following divorce is a good thing.  It will help remove the child from conflict.

If there are no child abuse concerns, diagnosed, then each parent should have as much time and involvement with the child as possible.  Equal shared parenting legislation supports this healthy family solution.

2. “Presumption”

The construct of presumption” has legal implications and I am a clinical psychologist.  I defer comment on the legal definitions and application of terminology.  I will, however, offer my perspective from clinical psychology and child development regarding the definition for that construct, to assist in a more complete understanding for that term relative to the child and family.

The legal professionals who offered this argument noted that in the 1800s it was a presumption toward the father, and then the “tender years” doctrine provided a presumption toward the mother, and that both were in error and there should be no presumption.

That is not accurate.  The presumptions cited were for one role, either mother or father, as being more valuable to the child than the other is, as they indicated, in error. The solution is not to litigate which is the “better parent.”  The solution is to value both.

An equal valuing of both the mother and the father is the Equal Shared Parenting legislation, it provides no presumption of one parent’s value over the other in the life of the child.

Equal Shared Parenting offers no presumption of one parent’s value over the other.  But wait, said in an alternative way it becomes, the presumption is for equal shared parenting (somewhere balanced between 60% and 40% based on factors).

Or… said in an alternative way, there is no presumption of either parent being of greater value to the child than the other parent, mothers and fathers are equally important.

Notice something important.  The construct of “presumption” depends on the context in which it is used. Sentence structure, not inherent meaning. Context of the word’s use.

A presumption that favors the father is not appropriate.  A presumption that favors the mother, is not appropriate.  That doesn’t mean that we should open up decision-making to a free-for-all blood sport of litigation designed to prove the inadequacy of the other parent in order to gain greater custody time.

The presumption that mothers and fathers are equally valuable to the child is the Equal Shared Parenting legislation being considered by the Pennsylvania legislature. That is a true and accurate presumption, mothers and fathers ARE equally important to the healthy development of the child.

There is no presumption that either parent is “better” – or that it is a good thing for parents to be engaged in litigation to prove that they are “better” and that they “deserve” more time because they are “better” than the other parent.  That is not a good thing.

3. Bias is Unavoidable

Our social offices are held by people, and people have inherent unconscious bias, called heuristics, that influence perception and decision making outside of awareness.  Unconscious.

Sapolsky (24:30 – 29:30): Judges are more lenient after eating than before eating because of the blood sugar rise from lunch.  It is important to the discussion of bias that everyone watch Sapolsky from 24:30 to 29:30.  All of it is wonderful, that five minutes is essential for a discussion of bias.

We cannot eliminate bias, because bias is inherent to the humanity of the person in the role.  We can only strive to control and limit the effects of bias on decision-making by the court.  Within the legal system, this is accomplished through the specificity of language in legislation, and by prior additional guidance and clarification through precedent interpretations and decisions.

In matters of family conflict, where unconscious personal history, personal values, and personal cultural factors are all likely unconscious influences on the human occupying the role, it is unwise to allow too great a latitude to interpretation of vaguely defined constructs.

Stahl and Simon, who are acknowledged professional representatives from the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association, identify how vague and poorly defined the construct of “best interests of the child” ia, even when guiding factors are identified.

From Stahl & Simon: “Even recognized experts in this concept differ with regard to what it means, how it should be determined, and what factors should be considered in determining what is in the best interest of a child.  Thus, this ubiquitous term escapes consensus and remains fundamentally vague… It is defined differently from state to state; and even in Arizona, where there are nine statutory factors associated with the best interest of the child, the meaning behind many of the factors is obscure” (Stahl & Simon, 2013, p. 10-11)

The apparent recommendations from the legal professionals testifying in Pennsylvania is that the solution to having neither a presumption in favor of the mother nor one favoring the father is to turn custody decision-making into a blood-sport of litigation to prove to the judge that the other parent does not “deserve” to be a parent based on a set of factors, the goal, the factors in proving that the other parent doesn’t deserve to be a parent.

That is not correct a correct approach.  The solution is to give neither parent a presumption and to recognize the equal value of both parents, mother and father, in the life of the child.  The solution is to provide a presumption of equal shared parenting, of equal value to the child of a mother’s love and a father’s love.

Children are not a battleground, and we should not encourage parents to weaponize the child into a custody battle to prove to the court the supposed “inadequacy” of the other parent.  The Equal Shared Parenting legislation being considered in Pennsylvania will remove children from the spousal conflict and will help restore a normal-range childhood to them, a childhood of loving and bonded relationships with both parents, mother and father.

Mothers are important and essential in the lives of their sons and daughters.  Mothers are not expendable from the lives of their children. Fathers are important and essential in the lives of their sons and daughters.  Fathers are not expendable from the lives of their children.

Equal Shared Parenting legislative support that, and will achieve that.

As a clinical psychologist with a professional specialty in child and family therapy, I am the professional who is tasked with fixing family conflict and restoring the child’s healthy development.  I am in full and complete support the Equal Shared Parenting legislation in Pennsylvania.

So much so, that I flew back to Harrisburg just to be in the room.  This legislation is the right thing to do.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psycholgoist, PSY 18857


6 Handy Tips to Help Deal with Holiday Parenting Time

6 Handy Tips to Help Deal with Holiday Parenting Time

For some divorced or separated parents, holiday parenting time may be a difficult time of year as their children may spend more time with the other parent and less time with them.

The post 6 Handy Tips to Help Deal with Holiday Parenting Time appeared first on Divorce Magazine.


Pressure Of Single Parenting

How To Cope With The Pressure Of Single Parenting

Pressure Of Single Parenting


Do you feel that, since you’re raising your kids alone, you have to fill in for their dad as well? You’re not the only one. There are more than 11 million single-parent families with underage children in the U.S. Out of those, more than 80% are single-mom families.

Whether the father is present or not, he surely doesn’t play the same role he would if you were living together and working together for the benefit of your children. Now, most of all the responsibility falls on your shoulders. You need to look after them, provide for them, talk to them, be there when they need you, and still be able to laugh.

It cannot be easy, and there are surely times when you feel exhausted, desperate that you will never get things done the right way. Well, take a deep breath and move on. You’re already doing a great job, and, even if you weren’t, no one has the right to judge you.

In fact, you should give yourself some slack and make efforts to relieve some of the pressure or, better put, cope with it. How do you do that? You’ll find some ideas and advice below.

8 Tips to Cope with the Pressure of Single-Parenting

1. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help When You Need It

Raising healthy and happy kids is a challenge for many two-parent families. It is downright difficult for single parents, so don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s normal to need help, and you shouldn’t feel bad asking for help.

You surely have a relative, friend, or neighbor who wouldn’t mind watching your kids for a couple of hours now and then. If not, perhaps there are single parents with kids of the same age that you can befriend and help one another.

Unforeseen problems will always appear. It is important to have someone to rely on when they do. It is also important to be able to give yourself a break every once in a while. You are human too, and you have your needs, be they physical or emotional.

2. Take a Day or at Least a Couple of Hours for Yourself Regularly

How long has it been since you last went out on your own, or enjoyed a glass of wine over a hot bubble bath? Perhaps you could go to a local spa for a massage, have your hair and nails done, or just lie in bed and get some sleep.

Your worries and responsibilities won’t go away but you will at least recharge your batteries to be able to better cope with them. You will feel better in your own skin, and you will be more relaxed and patient around your kids.

3. Show Your Kids Some Love

If you and their dad have just broken up, they are surely affected, no matter if they are able to express their feelings or not. Perhaps you feel that they are getting out of control but all they need is some love and attention.

Forget about your chores for a moment, as they won’t go anywhere if you do. Take some time to play with your kids and have fun. Take them to the park, play some games, go out for ice cream, bake some cookies, or microwave some popcorn and see a movie.

As you do, don’t avoid open discussions. They have questions, fears, and things they need to share. You should listen, answer, and share back. After all, you only have each other. And, last but not least, don’t hesitate to tell and show your kids how much you love them. They need it!

4. Build a Routine

Kids also need stability and knowing what to expect. You need a schedule, to be able to better cope with your responsibilities. Building a routine solves both problems. Start by having your meals and going to bed at the same hours. Continue by scheduling homework and playtime.

It will be a little difficult in the beginning, especially if you used to live chaotically, but it will prove useful in the long run. You will be able to function on autopilot even on your worst days if both you and the kids know what’s next.

5. Don’t Forget about Rules and Limits

Both you and the kids are vulnerable. It is easy for them to cross boundaries, and it is normal to be tempted to overlook some actions and mistakes. Don’t! They need to know what’s right and what’s wrong, and they need to understand that actions have consequences.

Therefore, set strict rules and enforce them. Those who do not follow them should put up with the consequences. With kids, restricting internet use and TV time is the best punishment. Of course, good behavior should be rewarded too.

6. Find Your Emotional Triggers and Control Them

Even though you’ve created routine, set rules, and gotten used to the idea that you’ll be raising the kids by yourself, there are times when you still lose control. Perhaps you get angry and start yelling, or you get vulnerable and start crying.

Although such reactions are normal, they do not benefit the kids, so you should learn to manage them. You can do that by identifying and dealing with the emotional triggers, namely the words, people, or actions that cause your outbursts.

Try to look at them from a different perspective, a positive one. Look for their fun or educational side. Don’t hesitate to go to therapy if you need to. It is better to acknowledge problems and deal with them than deny them and hope they would go away.

7. Don’t Isolate Yourselves

Both you and the kids need people in your lives. You need support, inspiration, and fun. While rushing into a new relationship is not a good idea, getting to know people, setting playdates, and spending time with friends and families is.

Make sure to include some friends and family members of the opposite sex, if your ex is not involved in raising the kids. Your children need a role model. They need a fatherly figure in their life, just like you need the occasional help with repairs around the house, football training, fishing, and camping, etc.

8. Remember to Take Care of Yourself

While it is normal to put your kids first, you need to look after your own needs as well. Take care of your body and soul, learn to relax and have fun, and, as time goes by, don’t close the door on new relationships.

You cannot raise healthy and happy kids if you are not healthy and happy yourself, both on the inside and on the outside, so see to your own health and happiness! Things will get better with time, and the pressure of single-parenting burdening your shoulders now will fade and make room to hope and fulfillment.

The post How To Cope With The Pressure Of Single Parenting appeared first on Divorced Moms.


3 Things to do if Your Parenting Plan is Not Being Followed

3 Things to do if Your Parenting Plan is Not Being Followed

If you have tried to be reasonable with your ex, and they are still refusing to follow the parenting plan, then filing for contempt may be a solution.

The post 3 Things to do if Your Parenting Plan is Not Being Followed appeared first on Divorce Magazine.


equal parenting

 6 Things Fathers Should Think About if They Want Equal Parenting

equal parenting


Before and during the divorce process each parent has the same legal right to custody of a child. Mothers and fathers are on legal standing until one or the other gives up or is denied full custody rights.

What does this mean? It is complicated! Even more complicated if you don’t know your state’s child custody laws. Bottom line, until you have signed a custody agreement or a judge has handed down a custody opinion, each parent has the same legal rights when it comes to where a child lives, who the child lives with and anything regarding the child.

I’ve found that most fathers do not have a clear understanding of their legal divorce rights where the children are involved. And in most cases will give up custody out of fear of losing in court due to a gender “bias.” Which is a myth perpetuated by men’s rights organizations. A father has as much chance of winning custody if he pursues custody as a mother.

For example, I received an email from a father who was separated from his wife. He wrote, “My wife moved out with our children, and is refusing to allow me to visit with them. I found out the other day that my youngest daughter had been hospitalized for a minor illness and I wasn’t informed. What should I do?”

It is heartbreaking to hear from a father who, for some reason has come to the belief that his wife has more legal rights over the children. This father has the legal right to pack his children up and bring them home. He has the legal right to contact school personnel, pediatricians and anyone else who may have contact with the child and let them know he is being denied his legal rights and demand to be notified of anything concerning his children.

The longer he allows his wife to make the rules about how or if he can parent his children, the more likely he is to lose an extensive amount of parenting time with his children in divorce court. In my opinion, this is the biggest mistake fathers make during the divorce process. They do not take the necessary steps needed to retain equal parenting time or full custody of their children.

According to, the majority of child custody cases are not decided by the courts.

  • In 51 percent of custody cases, both parents agreed — on their own — that mom becomes the custodial parent.
  • In 29 percent of custody cases, the decision was made without any third party involvement.
  • In 11 percent of custody cases, the decision for mom to have custody was made during mediation.
  • In 5 percent of custody cases, the issue was resolved after a custody evaluation.
  • Only 4 percent of custody cases went to trial and of that 4 percent, only 1.5 percent completed custody litigation.

What do the above statistics tell us about fathers and child custody?

For some reason, the vast majority of fathers are behaving in a way that is not in their best interest or the best interest of their children. Fathers may be giving up equal or shared custody because they’ve heard there is a gender bias, that mothers always win custody. They may give up more custody because they’ve been taught that “children need their mother.”

Here is the truth, you don’t know if there is a true gender bias in the divorce court system if you don’t go to court and fight for equal time with your children. And children need fathers just as much as they need mothers.

If you are a father who wishes to have equal parenting time with your children you are doing yourself a grave injustice if you give up without a fight.

If your attorney tells you, you don’t have a chance at equal parenting time with your children, look for another attorney. Don’t hire an attorney until you find one who tells you he will help you fight for that time you deserve as a father. And, don’t buy into the argument that the courts are biased in favor of women until you’ve proven to yourself that it is true.

6 Things Fathers Should Think About if They Want Equal Parenting Time After Divorce

  1. Do not allow your wife to dictate when, where and how often you will see your children. Document every time your ex keeps you away from your children and then use the court system to hold her accountable for interfering in your parenting time.
  2. Immediately hire an attorney or file a pro se petition with the court to establish equal parenting time with your children.
  3. Do not allow what you hear on father’s rights websites to dissuade you from attempting to gain equal parenting time or full custody. Just because one man was not able to obtain equal time or full custody of his children does not mean you won’t. You don’t go to work and do your job based on what others tell you, you are and are not capable of doing, do you? Then, don’t give up on your children based on what a few angry men say online.
  4. Do not let the financial cost associated with a child custody battle keep you from fighting. Which is more important, saving money for a child’s college education or fathering your child during their informative years and beyond?

Society still views mothers as caretakers and fathers as providers. I believe that one reason fewer men fight for equal time with their children has to do with their fear of legal fees and being left financially strapped and unable to provide for their children. When it’s all said and done, your time is the most important thing you can provide for your children. Don’t let money fears stop you from providing them with time with their father.

  1. Do not agree to less time with your child without first going through the mediation process or, if push comes to shove a full out custody battle.
  2. Do what you know, in your heart is right for you and your children. Don’t allow your head to become muddied with opinions from naysayers or those who’ve been there before you. When it comes to time with your children, you must let your heart lead what actions you choose to take.

I can’t tell a father what his chances of winning in a custody battle are. I can tell a father that if you aren’t willing to exert your legal rights your chance of winning equal or full custody with your children is zero. The questions you have to ask yourself is; how important is this issue to me? How important is it to my children?

If it is important then don’t allow fear of the myth of a “gender biased” court system keep you from pursuing your right to parent your children.

The post  6 Things Fathers Should Think About if They Want Equal Parenting appeared first on Divorced Moms.


equal parenting after divorce

Why Equal Parenting Time After Divorce Should Be The Norm

equal parenting after divorce


Not every circumstance occurring in our culture should be subject to an election as if it were a constitutionally guaranteed choice; some conditions are, to the contrary, an inalienable right, such as a child’s right to each parent equally after divorce.

I had intended for my next article to be a definition of the Parental Alienation Syndrome, but that will have to be momentarily deferred. I felt the necessity to comment, instead, the shared parenting law in Arizona, and I must extend my accolades to Mike Espinoza for his indefatigable and self-divulging efforts to facilitate its passage. Being neither a politician nor a mental health professional, Mike took up the cause as a loving, dedicated, and supportive father who had become a victim of the PAS.

Why Equal Parenting Time After Divorce Should Be The Norm

When we select a partner it is generally on the basis of what my mentor, child psychiatrist Salvador Minuchin, labeled as “complementarity.” In non-professional terminology, it is how we each balance our strengths and weaknesses with those of our partner.  In other words, we tend to select a partner who compensates for our weaknesses, and they likewise do the same.

It is, therefore, logical to conclude that the most appropriate decisions affecting children are arrived at when the parents do so collaboratively, with each parent drawing on their respective strengths and abilities. Neither parent must feel that he/she surrendered to the other parent’s will because the struggle to reach an accord became too great.

In my 17 years of practice as a family therapist, I have documented a wealth of anecdotal evidence that confirms that parental collaboration almost always facilitates the child’s optimal development and achieves the desired results. The post-divorce situation most assuredly requires the same parental collaboration so that the child continues to benefit from the strengths that had been provided by the parent who becomes the nonresidential parent.

Regrettably, however, this collaboration is undermined by our adversarial approach to the resolution of child custody.  Sole custody tends to be more the norm rather than joint custody; and even in those situations when joint legal custody is awarded, the residential parent often usurps with impunity the authority of the other parent. And, of course, this selection is predicated upon having to make a choice as to who would presumably (and I emphasize presumably) be the better parent.

Despite the obvious benefit of parental collaboration to children, which the research is now supporting, shared parenting is not without its critics and controversy. For example, the Arizona Foundation for Women CEO, Jodi Ligget, qualified the applicability of the law to those parental relationships that have minimal conflict.

She further asserted that the basis for custody decisions ought to be determined by the standard of the best interests of the child. But as this author/therapist stated in her prior article, I maintain that marginalizing one parent while elevating the other cannot achieve the best interest of the child, except in those situations of substantiated serious social deviancy and/or mental illness of one of the parents.

Yet other skeptics of the law have argued that, if the parents were capable of engaging in a collaborative co-parenting relationship, they would have sought out mediation rather than litigation.

Let me respond to this criticism by drawing on the wisdom of my sociology professor, Edward Sagarin. It was 1965, and the class was debating the implementation of the recently enacted Civil Rights Act. One of my classmates offered the following analysis, “You cannot legislate morality. Therefore, the legislation will fail.” Professor Sagarin responded, “You are correct that you cannot legislate morality. But the Civil Rights Act is not about morality; it is about behavior. And behavior can most definitely be legislated and can be enforced with the appropriate consequences.”

Professor Sagarin was very wise. We must be judiciously selective, even though our government is a democracy, as to when it is appropriate to provide its citizens with a choice. The Bill of Rights, for example, which was frequently invoked by Professor Sagarin throughout Sociology 101, protects minority rights from abuse by the vote of the majority.

Equal Parenting Time After Divorce How novel!

I am advocating that there be no choice for sole custody or for primary residency. Such choices must be off the table, no option! We should deem, forthwith, that it be the child’s civil rights to an equal relationship with each parent.

When the child’s parents, who are generally quite law-abiding, rational citizens in all other aspects, engage in the destructive, adversarial behaviors that so frequently occur in divorce situations, it is only because they believe they can get away with such behaviors. And they usually do. Even the not-so-rational parent, who engages in alienating behaviors, is effective in achieving alienation because of the cavalier, indifferent, and/or self-interested professional who enables and emboldens her/him.

I am proposing, therefore that every child of divorce has the right to say, “I need and desire that the two most important people in my life continue to parent me collaboratively through shared parenting. I have a right to expect that you will subvert your animosity for each other to your love for me. Doing so will inevitably produce results which are in my best interest.”

The post Why Equal Parenting Time After Divorce Should Be The Norm appeared first on Divorced Moms.


Why Shared Parenting After Divorce Is Optimal for Children

Why Shared Parenting After Divorce Is Optimal for Children

Studies have shown that children who dedicate 35 percent or more of their time to each with each parent have deeper bonds and a better relationship with both parents.

The post Why Shared Parenting After Divorce Is Optimal for Children appeared first on Divorce Magazine.


child stuck in the middle

2 Parenting Styles That Keep Your Children Out Of The Middle Of Your Divorce

child stuck in the middle


If you’ve been through a divorce or, you are thinking about divorce one of your main concerns will be how your divorce will impact your children. Study after study relates the ways in which divorce negatively impacts children. It’s no wonder parents worry about their children’s welfare based on common information about the subject of children and divorce.

Divorce can negatively impact children but there are ways to keep that from happening. You should know that the impact your divorce will have on your children dependents mainly on how you and your spouse choose to treat each other during and after divorce and, how you choose to parent.

Children who witness conflict between their parents during and after divorce or, feel as if they have been put in the middle of that conflict are negatively impacted by divorce. If you want your divorce to do little harm to your children, it’s your job to keep down conflict and keep them out of the middle of problems between you and your ex.

You may feel that conflict during divorce is unavoidable or the fault of the other parent, regardless of what you feel, it is imperative that you take the steps needed to keep your children from witnessing conflict and feeling stuck in the middle of two angry parents.

Below are 4 common ways children find themselves stuck in the middle of their parent’s conflict during and after divorce.

  1. When parents use their children as a messenger or a means of finding out information about the other parent’s home, dating life, and social activities.
  2. Negative comments about the other parent made by you, friends or family members.
  3. Sharing adult details about the problems between the parents. Details such as information about infidelity, legal divorce proceedings or the reason for the divorce.
  4. Garnering the child’s favor in an attempt to use the child to punish the other parent.
  5. Talking to the child about money issues. A late child support check, a lack of money needed to pay the rent…adult financial problems that children have no control over.

Steps parents can take to keep from putting their child in the middle of their conflict:

Divorce brings an end to your marriage, it doesn’t bring an end to your duties as a parent. One of those duties is to put a concerted effort into positively co-parenting with your child’s other parent. Below are a few suggestions that will help.

Choosing the parenting style that fits well for you and your ex after divorce

Parallel Parenting After Divorce

If there is a lot of conflict between you and your ex, parallel parenting is appropriate. Why? Parallel parenting allows each parent to remain a part of the child’s life while reducing the need for contact with each other. When parallel parenting, there is very little communication which, in turn, keeps down the conflict and protects the child from being impacted in a negative manner.

When parallel parenting, parents:

  1. Communicate through email, a third party or an app like Family Wizard to stay informed about issues involving the children. Discussions are strictly about the children and no personal issues between the parents. Use of a phone to communicate is only done in cases of an emergency.
  2. Schedules such as visitation, vacations and holidays are strictly kept. There is no negotiating for different days and times to keep down the likelihood of conflicts arising.
  3. There is a set residency agreed upon or ordered by the courts. When the children are in the care of one or the other parent in their residence neither parent interferes with social activities, routines or anything that takes place in the other parent’s residence.
  4. Neither parent has any influence over the other parent and how that parent chooses to spend time with their children. If one parent has an issue with the way the other parent is choosing to parent in their residence, the court is used to settle the issue.
  5. Parenting is treated as a business arrangement. Common courtesy is shown at all times and agreements are honored because the sole purpose of parallel parenting is to do what is best for your children.
  6. When communication or negotiation is necessary, parents can choose to have a third party involved to witness and if needed mediate and conflict that arises.
  7. Child support payments are filtered through the court or a child support collection bureau to keep down any possibility of late payment or conflicts of over payments.

Cooperative Parenting After Divorce

Cooperative parenting works best when there is low conflict between parents and the parents are able to work together for the sake of the children. With cooperative parenting, there is more flexibility when it comes to visitation schedules and residency issues.

When cooperative parenting, parents:

  1. Parents form a friendly business relationship that revolves around the needs of their children. A courteous and polite relationship is one that will go a long way toward making sure children have what they need from each parent.
  2. Parents are able to talk, face-to-face about parenting issues as they arise. They are able to stick to the topic at hand without becoming distracted by old relationship issues.
  3. They don’t expect praise or emotional support from each other. They realize that part of their relationship has ended. But, they are able to show empathy and to support each other during difficult parenting issues.
  4. Keep all discussions about parenting, visitation, schedules and such to themselves and don’t involve the children. They come to a firm decision, as parents, before involving the children in their decisions.
  5. Are able to, at all times, put their children’s needs above their needs and feelings. Their relationship with the other parent is strictly about what is best for their children.
  6. Are able to communicate via phone or in person without engaging in conflict.
  7. Child support checks are mailed directly to the parent receiving the support. Due to their business like relationship, they both understand the importance of meeting their financial obligations to their children.

Whether parallel parenting or cooperative parenting, it is important to remember that one method is not better than the other. Each method will result in lower conflict and, as a result, better parenting. And, that is your goal as parents, better parenting and keeping your child out of the middle of your divorce issues.

The post 2 Parenting Styles That Keep Your Children Out Of The Middle Of Your Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.


How to Create a Successful Parenting Plan

How to Create a Successful Parenting Plan

A more comprehensive and detailed parenting plan will help parents avoid future battles so that parenting disagreements will not escalate into conflicts. Like a peace treaty, a good parenting plan cannot anticipate every possible conflict, but it can identify likely issues and provide a roadmap for handling issues that are not easily resolved.

The post How to Create a Successful Parenting Plan appeared first on Divorce Magazine.


The Public Lie We've Been Told About Narcissism 1

The Public Lie We’ve Been Told About Narcissism

Live from Belmont Library MA – The Public Lie We’ve Been Told About Narcissism WHY RETHINK NARCISSISM?