The National Parents Organization (NPO) is a charitable and educational organization committed to family law reform whose focus is the promotion of shared parenting in which both parents have equal say in the raising of children after divorce or separation. Citing recent studies on the effects of shared parenting on children, the NPO believes that the preservation of a strong bond between parents and children is of utmost importance to the mental, emotional, and physical health of children. Pursuant to its mission, the NPO recently released its 2014 Shared Parenting Report Card, which is the first national study to provide a comprehensive ranking of states on child custody statutes. While no study’s findings should be accepted without question, this report card provides some useful information for policymakers, family law reform advocates, and parents on the effects of child custody laws nationwide.
Among the studies cited by the NPO upon the release of its Report Card is one published in January, 2014 by the Journal of the American Psychological Association. The aforementioned study found that shared parenting should be the norm for children for all ages, including very young ones. In July, the First International Conference on Shared Parenting in Bonn, Germany issued a consensus statement providing that shared parenting is optimal to child development and well-being in post-divorce situations, even when the parents are in conflict. Finally, in April, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts published the recommendations of thirty-two family law experts, which included the conclusion that children’s best interests are furthered by shared parenting. According to the NPO, these three studies involved experts from over twenty developed countries and summarized the findings of thirty years of child development research.
The NPO implemented four criteria in its grading of child custody statutes:
- Is the statute clearly permissive of shared parenting?
- Does it encourage shared parenting?
- Does it prefer shared parenting? In other words, does it reward one parent’s facilitation and encouragement of the other parent’s relationship with the child?
- Does it create a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting, with an exception when there is evidence of domestic violence? Are judges required to justify deviations from the rebuttable presumption?
The NPO’s Report Card results are a bit sobering in view of the findings of the three studies cited above. Each state was graded on a 4.0 GPA scale. The nation as a whole scored 1.63. No states scored an A. Only eight — Alaska, Arizona, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, and South Dakota — scored a B. Eighteen states, including Florida, scored a C. Two states — New York and Rhode Island — received an F. The remaining twenty-three states were given a D.
The Report Card goes into detail for each state, listing positives and negatives that affected the scoring. The State of Florida had one item listed as a “positive,” namely that Florida Statute 61.13 has a strong presumption in favor of shared parental responsibility. The two negatives were the absence of any presumption regarding physical custody as well as the absence of any provision for shared parenting during temporary orders. According to Troy Matson, chair of the National Parents Organization of Florida, courts in Florida often define significant parenting as 25%. There is no explicit presumption in law that parents share time equally with the children.
If you have any questions regarding child custody or parenting plans in Florida, you would be well-advised to seek the advice of a capable West Palm Beach Child Custody Attorney. James S. Cunha has been assisting the residents of Palm Beach, Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Broward, Hendry, and Miami-Dade Counties with their family law needs for many years. He has received a rating of 10 (Superb) from Avvo.com. Please contact the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. at (561) 429-3924 to schedule a consultation.