As a co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, I'm well versed in child-custody policies. But the Jan. 6 editorial "Maryland needs new policies on child custody" missed the mark.
It is exceedingly rare to see a bill take a one- size-fits-all approach. Indeed, "shared parenting" is defined as allowing children a minimum of 35 percent time with each parent, with the remainder of the child's time individualized to each case. I'm unaware of any bill without exceptions for issues such as abuse, neglect and abandonment.
In 2014, 110 world experts on child custody, child development, attachment and domestic violence endorsed a paper calling for shared parenting in family law. Citizens also support shared parenting, with poll after poll showing 70 percent favorability and women and men supporting it in roughly equal numbers. There are also more than 50 peer-reviewed papers supporting shared parenting.
With such support, shared-parenting laws have recently passed in Arizona, South Dakota, Utah, Missouri and Kentucky. A study will soon be published on the Arizona law that asks judges, lawyers and psychologists how the law has worked since 2012.
Within Leading Women for Shared Parenting, psychologists, medical doctors, lawyers, elected officials, journalists, researchers, therapists, domestic-violence experts and other prominent women are promoting what's right for children, as fatherlessness is an epidemic and family courts are a significant contributor.
Terry Brennan, Newton, Mass.
I was honored to serve on a committee of the Maryland Commission on Child Custody Decision Making. Committee members researched the number of states that practice presumptions of joint custody. There were very few. Why? Speak with the children and parents who struggle with joint legal custody. Their experience may incorporate a parent who refuses to support children's activities, special needs and communication with their co-parent. Some parents suffer from untreated mental illness or continued substance abuse and refuse to be treated.
Parents who remain in high conflict with joint custody become toxic to their children. The editorial was correct that a cookie-cutter approach doesn't work. Research shows that it is not about the quantity of time or overnights that children spend with a parent; rather, it is about their attachment and trust of that parent, and how that parent meets their child's developmental needs and works constructively with their co-parent.
This is the precept behind a child-focused approach. We work with as many fathers as mothers at the National Family Resiliency Center, along with many diverse families. They work hard to meet the needs of their children while co-parenting constructively.
The commission constructed many child-focused recommendations. "Owning children" terms are replaced by what is really needed: parenting time and parenting responsibility. The commission respects the involvement of both parents in a way that meets children's needs.
Risa J. Garon, Silver Spring
The writer is executive director and therapist of the National Family Resiliency Center.
Maryland and other blue states are against a "presumption of joint custody" because it will dramatically lower child support for the custodial parent (primarily mothers). The current presumptive default standard — noncustodial fathers becoming every-other-weekend visitors and monthly maximum child-support check-writing machines — brings glee to the pro-feminist family court system. It also manifests a strong single-mother voter bloc for a certain political party.
A dad could be a Medal of Honor recipient and would still be a deadbeat father until proved otherwise before many family courts. Fathers lose out, and kids suffer for it. I know firsthand. It takes a village to raise a kid? No, it takes a mom and a dad.
Robert T. Molleur, Manassas