Report: Shared Parenting Statutes Are Moderately Less Terrible

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If you’re looking down the barrel at a messy custody negotiation, move to Kentucky or Arizona.

So says the National Parents Organization, a nonprofit that advocates for divorces to proceed in the best interests of the children, and knows those interests are best served by plenty of access to both parents. There’s also plenty of work ahead, because despite mountains of research that strongly correlates shared parenting and child welfare, family law still has its head stuck somewhere in 1957.

Back in 2014, the NPO evaluated the family law statutes of all 50 states and DC — for how explicitly these statutes permitted and/or presumed shared parenting, and whether they rewarded parents willing to do it — and found them seriously lacking. Only 17% of children of separated or divorced parents had shared parenting, and half the states got a grade of D or below.

Five years later, the updated report features many points of improvement:

  • The average grade of the nine states that have enacted substantive new legislation has risen from D+ to B-.
  • The number of states that exceeded a minimum shared parenting threshold has risen from 26 in 2014 to 34 in 2019.
  • More states are defaulting to equal rather than shared parenting, a huge distinction since the latter is far less vague. (Kentucky earned its A by implementing “an explicit rebuttable presumption of equal physical custody,” which means “let’s start in the middle and work from there.”)

There’s also an important difference between the two states who failed both reports. New York, which has introduced eleven bills since 2014, is classified as a “battleground state,” while Rhode Island has spent the last half-decade sucking its thumb.

What are our main takeaways, then? Rhode Island needs to quit dicking around and get to work. If you’re a fit and loving parent, assert yourself: Fathers who actively seek primary or joint physical custody get it over 70% of the time. And for now, if you want to live near a breathtaking natural wonder, think Grand Canyon rather than Niagara Falls.



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  • “I’m a 42-year-old man who was raised in a homogeneously white community and, at times like these, bringing up a strong, black son through the simmering racial divides in our country seems an impossibility.” – Tobin Walsh, The Racism We Gift Our Children
  • “But this is not a normal tired. This is not a loopy, slap happy, fuzzy-brained tired. Or even a dark-eyed, low-voiced, half-speed tired. This is an insidious, squeezing, swell-tide of sleeplessness that D carries on his back like a Buick.” – Aubrey Hirsch, The Weather


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Photo by Dimitri de Vries on Unsplash