While Father’s Day stands as a day to honor fathers, the unfortunate reality is that every day of the year, our nation’s family courts continue to marginalize the role fathers play in the lives of their children. In fact, courts award sole custody to one parent, typically to the mother, while reducing the other parent, usually the father, to “visitor” status nearly 80 percent of the time when parents split. Fortunately, we have a common sense solution to this problem: shared parenting. Please join me this Father’s Day in supporting efforts underway in nearly half our nation’s states that seek to advance shared parenting – the equal-time child custody arrangement – as the new post-divorce status quo. 

While the persistence of the outdated single parenting model is discouraging, it’s encouraging that state legislatures in nearly 20 states have stood up to gender inequality and supported the best interests of children with shared parenting bills this year. The most notable progress was made in Utah, where passage of a new law allows non-custodial parents to spend significantly more time with their children, and proposals in other states hold promise. Not only do these reform efforts recognize the value of both parents, but more importantly, they provide children what they most want and need – equal time with both parents in instances of divorce or separation. 

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The shared parenting movement falls in line with a growing amount of child development research. One of the most recent of many examples appeared this spring in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. This 150,000-person study found that shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health. The study, “Fifty moves a year: is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” evaluated the mental health of children living in both shared parenting and sole custody situations after divorce or separation and concluded that the children with shared parenting – children spending substantial time with each parent – were significantly less stressed than children living with one parent a great majority of the time. 

Not only do studies consistently show that shared parenting is best for children when parents split, but also, federal statistics show the startling impact single parenting has on children. Consider that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, the 35 percent of children raised by single parents account for:

  • 63 percent of teen suicides
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 71 percent of high school drop-outs
  • 75 percent of children in chemical abuse centers
  • 85 percent of those in prison
  • 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders
  • 90 percent of homeless and runaway children

The case for shared parenting doesn’t end there. Mothers substantially benefit from shared parenting as well. The more parenting time a father has, the more time a mother can devote to her career and other priorities outside of raising children. Modern families can truly thrive with shared parenting. Plus, when the conversation begins, rather than ends, with shared parenting, all family members often endure less conflict, leading to fewer court battles and lower legal costs. 

We know that too many children have suffered when both parents aren’t actively involved in their lives, and we know the viable solution. Please support the best interests of children this Father’s Day by joining me in supporting efforts to make shared parenting and parental equality the norm, rather than the exception, in family courtrooms throughout the country.

Rogers is a member of National Parents Organization’s Board of Directors.