Myth: “Kids get bounced back and forth between two homes more in shared parenting than in a primary custodial arrangement, and it’s not stable.”

Reality: The actual number of transitions is exactly the same for a child, whether they are on the infamous Siegenthaler schedule (which, interestingly was overturned on appeal – yet many judges continue to dish it out) or a true equal parenting plan. If you don’t believe me, create a color-coded calendar and compare both scenarios side-by-side. Look at the number of times children would switch homes on an unequal parenting plan versus an equal parenting plan. In other states, let’s take Texas for example, where there is a standard parenting plan, when compared to an equal parenting plan, the equal parenting plan has the child transitioning less often than the parenting plan that the courts have been using as their default. Equal parenting plans are also more stable because kids can settle into each parent’s home as a resident and not a visitor. Kids also don’t have to rush through dinners and homework like they had to do on a visiting plan, and they have the peace of mind knowing that they don’t have to up and leave in just a few hours.

I once had a parent tell me that living out of a suitcase is not good for children. In shared parenting arrangements, children have a bedroom, a full set of clothing, toiletries, etc. in each home. Kids who spend time with the “other” parent generally aren’t on a pull-out living room sofa. If they are, it’s likely in response to unconstitutional parenting orders that relegated one parent to four days a month and is charging them child support. This scenario is less likely to happen in shared parenting arrangements.

 

Myth: “Kids in shared parenting arrangements have no sense of identity and can’t root themselves anywhere.”

Reality: Think of Europeans and how they frequently cross borders and assimilate into many different cultures and languages. This is the norm. Kids

create a network and lay roots wherever they go, whether it’s at Grandma’s house, Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, school, and yes – the other parent.

Interestingly, nobody makes these types of comments when kids spend a lot of time at their grandparent’s home or playing a sport that demands most of their waking hours when the parents are married. These comments only arise in the divorce industry by “experts” when it comes to spending time with the unfavored “other” parent.

 

Myth: “Kids in shared parenting arrangements can’t participate in extracurricular activities because they are frequently switching homes.”

Reality: Most parents in shared parenting arrangements have parents living within 20 miles of each other. Even when the distance is a bit greater, there’s no reason why the other parent can’t transport the kids to their school district for a sport. If kids have to remain close to home in order to play a sport, why do we have so many “away” games? Don’t kids travel several towns away to play a sport against another team? And many times the parents decide to live closer together for convenience for them and the child anyway. Things are more likely to work themselves out when the courts don’t hold the threat of stripping rights away from one parent or the other.

In this day and age, with virtually every adult owning a car or in walking distance to public transportation, moms and dads alike are capable and mostly willing to bring their child to whatever supporting or extracurricular events the child wishes. There’s no compelling reason to think they would not. A Family Law Attorney, judge, or evaluator can’t assume that a parent won’t participate in extracurricular activities any more than they can impose the same assumption on a married parent. Don’t married parents juggle work schedules and other children? No one thinks of this, but they are quick to assume that having two homes precludes a child from having a life. Not only that, but it’s not the state’s job to micromanage a child’s extracurricular schedule. That is a tremendous overreach and has no place in Family Law.

 

Myth: “Kids in shared parenting arrangements can’t make friends if they can’t live primarily in one home.”

Reality: When I was a kid, my dad lived in Hartford and I lived outside of Boston. I had friends in my dad’s neighborhood and I had friends back “home”. I loved it. I even had friends in Chicago when I went to visit my grandparents for the summer. It was exhilarating to meet with my friends at the start of each summer and see how many teeth we lost, how many jump-roping skills we developed and how tall we got. It was fun to catch up with them after nine months of not seeing them. And this was in the 1980’s when there was no Internet or texting or social media to keep up with friends year-round.

Kids can make friends anywhere and everywhere they wish. Having two homes does not disqualify a child from making or keeping friends. The divorce industry assumes the other parent can’t/won’t participate in weekend sleepovers and outings for their children’s friend circle, which again is a made-up concept manufactured in order to prevent equal parenting. And at risk of sounding redundant, it’s not the state’s job to micromanage a child’s friendship circle. That job rests on the shoulders of parents.

 

Myth: “Shared parenting increases conflict with the parents. Children need to live in only one home in order to be shielded from the conflict.”

Reality: This is the Nobel Peace Prize argument to promoting inequality whenever this comes up in court. And it seems to make perfect sense, right? But this assumes that IF parents DO fight, they will do it in front of the child. It also assumes that there will be fighting in the doctor and dentist offices, school meetings, and the like. However, unequal parenting orders can’t prevent this, since non-custodial parents can attend appointments anyway. So who does the divorce industry think they are fooling? The theatrical images of screaming parents in parking lots is conjured up by skilled attorneys when they tell the judge the magic words, usually ambushed into closing arguments at the 11th hour: “Your Honor, shared parenting will never work because these parents are high conflict!”

More reality: If a parent is “high conflict”, they are going to be high conflict whether the children are in a shared parenting or an equal parenting plan. Also, shared parenting reduces subject matter to fight over. If the parental rights are safeguarded to begin with, that usually blocks long-term litigation, because there’s no longer a reason to petition the court to restore their rights that were taken away. Staying out of court is an easy band-aid for high conflict parents. And band-aids, in my opinion, are good enough to float them until their youngest child is 18. All this would be accomplished if the winner/loser culture was removed from Family Court.

More reality: When drinking fountains, buses, and schools were shared equally with people of color and white people, did the conflict increase? Are gay people in constant conflict with straight people because they are now allowed to get married? If equality promoted conflict, we never should have given equal rights to women, people of color, or allowed gay marriage to be legal. Of course this concept makes no sense. We all know that a society can’t thrive where there is inequality. It’s pretty much the Golden Rule of modern civilization. Any school grade history book will show this. Yet, it’s promoted and accepted with parenting arrangements. Even parents themselves buy into this made up concept, again perpetuated by the special interest industries.

 

Myth: “Shared parenting leads to child abuse.”

Reality: This is both true and false.

The merit to this argument is that if a child is with an abusive parent, and the parenting schedule is equal, the child is exposed to the abuse with more frequency, without the other parent available to intervene. That cannot be denied. And unfortunately, one of the biggest flaws in Family Court is that they are ILL EQUIPPED to properly manage abuse. Judges in their inflated sense of absolute power mismanage and purposely ignore child abuse all the time. This is why abuse claims should be handled with mandated reports to police/child protection authorities, so they can launch a proper investigation and bring forward proper charges.

Once abuse claims make it to Family Court, they are affixed there. Police and CPS will erroneously direct parents to Family Court to manage child abuse. Then the court is left to wield their unchecked power by labeling the protective parent a “liar” without properly prosecuting the parent under child abuse laws which could reduce the chance of the child ending up in the hands of a truly abusive parent. Dumping these cases to the family courts only serves to increase the chances that a child will end up in the hands of an abuser. In family court, Parents have to be aggressive in having claims investigated by proper criminal authorities instead of being handled by the divorce industry.

That being said, shared parenting does not cause abuse. A non-abusive parent will not become abusive simply because the parent has equal time with the child. Abusive parents will be abusive no matter what schedule they have. There’s no need to punish ALL fit parents by forbidding shared parenting, due to the sins of abusive parents.

 

Myth: “Shared parenting is bad because the children don’t get child support.”

If the parenting schedule is equal, and both parents are meeting the child’s basic needs for food, weather-appropriate clothing, shelter, transportation and medical care, the expenses to raise a child are spread out between both parents. While one could argue that one parent never pays for shoes, haircuts, field trips, etc., these same conflicts occur in intact families. It’s common for one married parent to not want to buy a car for the child, while the other married parent feels that a child should have a car. As a married mother, my husband and I disagree on how many outfits and toys our toddler (my second child) should have. Divorced parents have the exact same issues that married parents have in this regard, but leverage the courts to litigate these simple matters. In many cases, the exchange of child support is simply more subject matter that breeds opportunity for conflict. If child support is negligible or non-existent, there is far less to fight over.

Children who grow up in shared parenting situations are usually better taken care of financially because one parent is not raising the child in a sole-custody, single-parent household with “latch-key kids”; among other social problems that can develop from forced sole-custody arrangements when the “losing” parent is capable and willing to co-parent. Not to mention, shared parenting puts more money back into the pockets of the parents and out of the divorce industry. In my particular case, my ex has spent more in attorney fees to prevent me from parenting than he has ever “earned back” in child support. His Return on Investment has proven to be negative. This is not unique.

Summary: With all the positive aspects of shared parenting, we need to get out of these archaic and draconian Family Court practices. This starts with awareness and debunking myths, so they are not further perpetuated among the Family Court culture. Children need to develop healthy attachments to both their paternal and maternal side, and children do not have to be removed from extended family members because their parents chose to divorce. Shared parenting arrangements can actually reduce conflict among parents when the leverage to hurt the other is no longer there.

Finally, shared parenting arrangements drastically reduces litigation and keeps money in the parents’ pockets, so they can invest that money into their children, and not their attorney’s children.

 

 


Monica Szymonik
Monica Szymonik

Monica Szymonik is a Certified Health Coach, PLTI graduate, parental rights lobbyist, crusader of justice, and lifelong health guru. Her “Moms Unshackled” web-based health coaching program guides women into overcoming legal abuse in the family law industry. Monica met her life partner while giving public testimony, and together they are creating a book entitled, “Don't Visit Your Kids!” – designed to empower parents on moving through fractured Family Court system with fewer battle scars than they both endured. Monica is also a guest blogger for “Fix Family Courts”, volunteers for the National Family Law Policy Center, and has been featured in the Huffington Post, Glastonbury LIFE, and CT Mirror. Monica is very excited to share "Moms Unshackled", which delves deeper into health saving strategies that are outlined in her book.

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