Shared Parenting in South Dakota just makes sense. Here are ten arguments for shared parenting:
1. This issue is about fit parents. This issue is about fit parents. The statement needs to be repeated because opponents continually equate this issue with protecting children against unfit parents. Shared parenting advocates are not talking about those parents who are guilty of domestic or child abuse. Shared Parenting advocates are talking about two people who are innocent and therefore entitled to the privileges of an innocent person. It is important to not get caught up in the argument that in order to protect our children we need to keep the current system in place. All of the current safeguards against abusive parents do not go away with shared parenting.
2. Every single parent with “standard visitation” in South Dakota also has a 50/50 schedule. The schedule is for only 3 months out of the year: Summer Vacation. Every fall, a child who was with their parent for half time during the summer goes back to 4 days a month during the school year. It is clear that the current system has no problem “allowing” shared parenting; it is clear that there is some sort of belief that NCPs (noncustodial parent) can’t parent effectively during the school year. Proponents of Shared Parenting want to be more than vacation parents.
3. There is data out there that shows that the more contact that feuding parents have, the poorer the outcomes for children. There is almost no schedule with greater contact for feuding parents than minimum South Dakota guidelines. There are 20 points of contact for feuding parents a month with minimum guidelines. There is absolutely no correlation between greater time spent with NCPs and negative outcomes for children. There is only a correlation with negative outcomes for children with greater points of contact between feuding parents. Simple changes in a schedule can minimize contact between feuding parents
4. Opponents to shared parenting make one point again and again: men are abusive. Men are not good or equal parents. They assert that legislators need to assume that they are guilty to protect our children. Opponents state that if they are good fathers and because men are financially privileged as gender that there is a cheap, fairly straight forward process of getting a lawyer and providing proof that they can co-parent. I have spent 5000 dollars to get “minimum recommended guidelines” with my child. None of the “cheap or easy” argument is true.
5. If our state wants to guarantee child support payments then it needs to guarantee greater visitation. Numerous studies show how increased fatherhood participation increases payments. Greater visitation does not take away any support for children. Abated funds are used to support the child in the non-custodial parent’s home. Zero money is taken away from support to a child. Two homes need the resources (money) to support a child, not just one.
6. We are talking about fit parents. We are talking about fit parents. Not one part of the proposed South Dakota legislation for Shared Parenting is for children being in homes with unfit parents. Parents with documented issues do not have the right that fit parents have. We are upholding a standard of innocent until proven guilty—not the current standard of I don’t like you and so you can’t see your child.
7. I am a counselor. I’ve done marriage counseling and family systems counseling. This system creates leverage with two things: money and visitation. Children are being put in the middle. Our laws need to take away that leverage from both parties. There should not be an option for leverage. Divorce can turn two people into ugly people. The best” interests of the child” is about creating an environment that encourages the most time, love, and support from both parents. When a parent wins in our current system, a child loses.
8. Parenting plans are part of the new legislation. If one parent needs to be put in primary charge of medical, religion, and school decisions then that can be part of the plan. Laws should not give one parent the only ability to make choices—power from the outset.
9. This system supports misogynist and outdated ideas about parenting. There is no longer a “tender years doctrine” because the courts acknowledged that both sexes can care for a child. Current stats show men and women both care for their children more than they ever have before. Women don’t rely on men to take care of them. Despite a lower average wage for women, women’s wages are getting better. Here are some other points to consider before listening to how poorly women are coping in our modern world. Six out of every ten persons entering higher education last year were women. There are more female doctors and lawyers graduating than men. The unemployment rate is also higher for men. It’s new world for both sexes. As much as I know this issue impacts more men, we should not make it a women’s rights issue on the other side. This issue is about our children’s rights and access to two fit parents.
10. The best childhood outcomes are from two parent families. Children need active and engaged parents. They do not need single mothers and visiting fathers. As a counselor, I have counseled depressed fathers because they have lost their kids and helped young adults with scars dating back 20 years because of these laws. These laws are failing South Dakota’s families and children. The heart wrenching stories from women and men should compel us to do something—not acting is not an option. The composition of the South Dakota Shared Parenting Coalition is parents: men and women. Good people. The primary stakeholders in this case should not be the lawyers who profit from conflict but the parents and children who are directly impacted by this legislation. Shared parenting is about two fit parents supporting their children and represents the “best interests of children.”