Take the extreme example of a parent who most reasonable people would consider to be unfit--perhaps an alcoholic father or a mother that severely neglects the child: Even in those cases the child will typically beg, cry, and scream not to be taken from them. Blood is not just thicker than water—it’s richer than money and all the better things that money can buy for the child.
The bond between biological parents and their children is the strongest of all human bonds—even marriage—and it must now be treated this way by our family courts. The first step is to change the law by passing the new shared parenting bill supported by the Fatherhood Coalition.
The courts have to stop playing God, employing all sorts of self-styled “child experts” to determine the “best interests of the child.” Children are not served when the state rules that one of their parents doesn’t pass muster consistent with some “expert’s” notion of a good parent, or either is simply not as good as the other parent.
The solution is for the law to recognize that unless a parent is proved to be seriously harmful to his/her child’s welfare, every child has an inalienable right to the love, care and companionship of both their parents, as do the parents to the child’s.
The law must reflect this by establishing a rebuttable presumption of shared custody. Besides establishing such a presumption, the shared parenting bill removes the present statutory language that practically encourages each parent to demonize the other in order to show that only they are worthy of their child.
For example, Ch. 208, section 31 presently reads in part: “When considering the happiness and welfare of the child, the court shall consider whether or not the child's present or past living conditions adversely affect his physical, mental, moral or emotional health.” This may sound good, but in practice it serves as an invitation for divorce lawyers to employ all sorts of costly behavioral professionals to provide “evidence” of the harmful effects of the other parent’s parenting, often relying on the flimsiest of anecdotal incidents that, under this present wording of the law, are sufficient to demonstrate harm to the “emotional health” of the child.
The bill replaces this wording with language that requires evidence of serious harm to a child before a parent’s custodial rights can be abridged. Establishing such a minimum standard for ending a parent’s custodial rights is the only way to stop the present practice of eliminating a parent form his/her child’s life for spurious reasons.
Shared parenting will also make re-litigation less likely. Often, fathers who lose their children after divorce spend years fighting Herculean legal battles to restore their relationships with their children. The only beneficiaries of these protracted legal battles are lawyers and family specialists who derive income from the never-ending litigation. Ensuring an initial shared parenting judgment that respects the parental role of both mothers and fathers—and thus puts the true best interests of the children first—is the best guarantee that children will be spared these tragic battles that can consume the best years of their lives.
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Mark Charalambous of Leominster is spokesman for CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition
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