NOW - NEW YORK STATE OPPOSE MEMO
A-00330 and S-291 - Presumption of Joint Custody / Shared Parenting for Minor Children March 2005
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The National Organization for Women, New York State, Inc. strongly urges the Assembly and Senate of New York to oppose this legislation. This bill seeks to "create the statutory of presumption of joint custody for all minor children whose parents are no longer married, so that both parents can continue to share in the responsibilities and duties of the children's upbringing."
"Shared Parenting" is defined as "the award of custody to both parties so that both parties share equally the legal responsibility and control of such child and share equally the living experience in time and physical care of assure frequent and continuing contact with both parties, as the court deems to be in the best interests of the child, taking into consideration the location and circumstances of each party."
The assertion that "shared parenting is in the best interests of minor children" is on its face untrue and is directly contradicted by the body of academic research on this subject, as well as the disastrous experience of California (one of the first states to adopt this experiment).
The following facts continue to be true with respect to mandatory joint custody of the children:
* To arbitrarily reassign a child's primary caregiver, or disrupt a child's attachment to a primary caregiver creates an unstable, even traumatic situation for the children.
* Increased father involvement does not necessarily result in positive outcomes for children. This involvement by the father will have positive consequences only when it is the arrangement of choice for the particular family and when there is a relatively cooperative and low conflict relationship between the parents.
* In families where there is a high level of conflict between the mother and father, joint custody arrangements are harmful to children, placing them in the middle of ongoing bickering and a stressful, unstable environment with no escape.
* Where there is domestic violence, joint custody/shared parenting arrangements are NEVER appropriate.
* Legislating "shared parenting" will not make it so, or guaranty continued relationships between fathers and children.
* Joint Custody bills have been designed to establish rights without responsibilities. Joint custody facilitates using the children to maintain access to a former partner and ongoing control of their life. Father's rights groups continue to push for this legislation in spite of the body of evidence that in the majority of cases, joint custody is not in the best interest of the children.
* Fathers Rights groups continue to promote the myth that courts are biased in favor of mothers. In litigated cases, father who sue for custody almost always win. In fact, fathers are often awarded sole custody even when sexual and physical abuse of the children is alleged and substantiated. According to The American Judges Association, 70% of the time the abuser convinces the court to give him custody.
* Existing law currently says that there is no preference for shared parenting in New York. The court may award joint custody, but in practice rarely does so. Legislators should be aware that the reason that more mothers have custody after divorce is that most arrangements are worked out between the parents. 95% of the litigated cases, including matrimonial cases, are settled out of court.
* Legislation providing for mandated joint custody ignores the issues of domestic abuse, including child abuse. Mothers are too often held more accountable by Child Protective Services for child abuse perpetrated by the father, than the fathers themselves are. Mothers often accused of Parental Alienation Syndrome, discourages women from protecting their children since raising the issue of child abuse leads to retaliatory accusations of alienating the children, and frequently, to an award of custody to the abusive father.
The National Organization for Women-New York State, Inc. is in favor of primary caregiver presumption. This means that the parent who assumed primary responsibility for the children during the marriage, either father or mother, should continue to be the custodial parent.
Establishment of a presumption of joint custody is harmful to the children. NOW New York State urges the passage of primary caretaker legislation, a realistic solution for children. NOW New York State urges the New York Legislators to defeat A00330/S291 and to look to research regarding the damage to children by passing mandated joint custody. Specifically: Richard Neely, former Chief Justice of the West Virginia Court of Appeals, citing West Virginia primary caretaker presumption law and its effectiveness.
Marcia A. Pappas, President, NOW-NYS, Inc.
Lori Gardner, Executive VP
Barbara Kirkpatrick, Legislative Vice President