Children are human beings, not belongings. Children need the love, caring, nurturing, and guidance of both their mother and father throughout their lives. "Awarding" custody of a child to either the mother or father in divorce creates an atmosphere of contempt and competition, but more importantly it deprives the child of the benefit of the day to day nurturing of either their mother or father.
Research has shown in a dramatic fashion the long term devestating effects removal of a parent has on children. The following statistics from the American Psychological Association found along with other shared parenting research gathered together online at www.helpstoppas.com have been duplicated in a number of studies, including those from the U.S. Department of Education.
Psychologist Robert Bauserman, Ph.D., of AIDS Administration/Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore, Maryland conducted a meta-analysis of 33 studies between 1982 to 1999 that examined 1,846 sole-custody and 814 joint-custody children. The studies compared child adjustment in joint physical or joint legal custody with sole-custody settings and 251 intact families. Joint custody was defined as either physical custody - where a child spends equal or substantial amounts of time with both parents or shared legal custody - where a child lives with primarily one parent but both parents are involved in all aspects of the child's life. This article will appear in the March issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Children in joint custody arrangements had less behavior and emotional problems, had higher self-esteem, better family relations and school performance than children in sole custody arrangements. And these children were as well-adjusted as intact family children on the same measures, said Bauserman, "probably because joint custody provides the child with an opportunity to have ongoing contact with both parents."
These findings indicate that children do not actually need to be in a joint physical custody to show better adjustment but just need to spend substantial time with both parents, especially with their fathers, said Bauserman. Also, joint custody couples reported less conflict, possibly because both parents could participate in their children's lives equally and not spend the time arguing over childcare decisions. Unfortunately a perception exists that joint custody is more harmful because it exposes children to ongoing parental conflict. In fact, the studies in this review found that sole-custody parents reported higher levels of conflict.
Harvard also conducted studies with the following results:
Adolescents After Divorce, Buchanan, C., Maccoby, and Dornbusch, Harvard University Press,1996.
A study of 517 families with children ranging in age from 10.5 years to 18 years, across a four and a half year period. Measures were: assessed depression, deviance, school effort, and school grades. Children in shared parenting arrangements were found to have better adjustment on these measures than those in sole custody.
With these statistics it is easy to see that shared parenting is in the best interest of the child. Shared parenting legislation would also strengthen our family values and society as a whole. A study conducted by Richard Kuhn et al with The Children's Rights Council showed a decline in divorce rates in states that allow joint physical custody.
The evidence reported in this paper indicates that widespread acceptance of joint physical custody will not increase the divorce rate, and may in fact reduce divorce. States whose family law policies - either by statute or through judicial practice - encourage joint custody have shown a much greater decline in their divorce rates than those that favor sole custody.
The decline was attributed to a number of factors.
States that favor sole custody in divorce may thus expect to see more divorce than states that encourage joint custody. On a practical level, joint physical custody makes it less likely that a parent can move to another city to eliminate interaction with the other parent. Because both parents provide for the child directly, child support payments may be somewhat lower with joint custody, reducing financial motives for divorce. Perhaps most significant, joint custody also removes the capacity for one spouse to hurt the other by denying participation in raising the children.
A vast amount of research has found that shared parenting will not only strengthen the institution of marriage in our country but also give our nation's children the love and companionship they need from both their mother and father to mature into productive and respected members of our society. Shared parenting is no longer a concept that needs to be debated; it has been tested and proven to be the preferred custody arrangement in a divorce situation. In absence of mental illness or abuse children are entitled to the right of a close continued relationship with both parents without interference from either parent or the court.
With this information it would be abusive towards parents and children not to act in the children's best interest. The best interest of the children is equal time with both parents; shared parenting. With this in mind consider the findings from the United States Department of Education:
"More than a quarter of American childrennearly 17 milliondo not live with their father. Girls without a father in their life are two and a half times as likely to get pregnant and 53 percent more likely to commit suicide. Boys without a father in their life are 63 percent more likely to run away and 37 percent more likely to abuse drugs. Both girls and boys are twice as likely to drop out of high school, twice as likely to end up in jail and nearly four times as likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems." -- HHS Press Release, Friday, March 26, 1999.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent and serious matter.