Senator Nuciforo, who appeared before the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition, strongly supports shared parenting and was extraordinarily knowledgeable about the subject. Shared parenting is an alternative to the current winner-take-all, sole custody regime in Massachusetts, where custody just goes to one parent, almost invariably the mother. Shared parenting entails both parents spending equal time with the child and having equal responsibilities in rearing the child.
Shared parenting best approximates an intact family. Children need both their parents. When one is missing, they feel a sense of abandonment that will haunt them the rest of their lives, and later impede their own ability to form meaningful relationships. Shared parenting allows the father to be present in the child’s life so that he may provide meaningful moral, emotional, and spiritual support.
According to divorce magazine.com, “In 1996, children of divorce were 50 percent more likely to divorce, than their counterparts from intact families. They also reported that “Fatherless homes account for 63 percent of youth suicides, 90 percent of homeless/runaway children, 85 percent of all children with behavioral problems, 71 percent of high school drop outs, 85 percent of youths in prison, and well over 50 percent of teen mothers.”
Most parents will not litigate if they know that shared parenting will be the usual outcome. With sole- custody, even though most men know that they are likely to lose in Probate Court, they will spend their life savings and waste years of their life attempting to not lose their own children.
Shared parenting promotes reconciliation. Parents know that Massachusetts courts disfavor shared parenting. In an effort to win sole-custody, sensing no alternative, both parents ending up slinging mud at the other to show how the other is a terrible, unfit parent. This causes more embitterment at a time when the child so desperately needs reconciliation.
Shared parenting will lower the divorce rate. Studies have shown that it already has in states that have enacted it. The sad reality is that half of all first marriages end in divorce, and 60 percent of all second. One of the primary reasons that there is such a high divorce rate is that the women have so little to lose in the case of divorce.
Better adjusted children, much less litigation, less divorce, and more parental reconciliation and cooperation are all the advantages of shared parenting that inure to the child.
The Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition meets every Wednesday at 7 p. m. in dining room A at the Berkshire Medical Center.