Why The Opposition To Shared Parenting, New York?By Sarah J. Merry
A quick search on Google shows that “shared parenting” is a hot button issue in many states across the nation.
Shared parenting refers to two parents who have divorced or separated, or who were never married, sharing residential custody of their child on an equal or near equal basis and being equally empowered to make decisions regarding their child.
Unfortunately, most reports on this subject reveal there is a great deal of opposition to the implementation of laws that either allow (yes, allow) a judge to consider shared parenting or that set forth a presumption that parents should share time with their kids.
While South Dakota just passed legislation which allows a judge to consider shared parenting during a custody hearing, and Arkansas passed a law in 2013 which states that joint custody is favored in an action for divorce, many states have opposed or failed to pass such laws.
Since many consider New York to be one of the more progressive states, you may be shocked to learn that proposed shared parenting laws have been lingering in the New York State Legislature for over 14 years – yes 14 years! What gives, New York?
Proposed laws containing a presumption of shared parenting are shown to have been sponsored by a New York State Assembly or Senate member since 1999 and have continually been “held over” in the Committee for Children and Families.
The bottom line: the bill has never been proposed to, or voted on, by the Legislature.
The current proposed law, S05316 sponsored by Sen. Michael Nozzolio, calls for a presumptive award of shared parenting in cases where there is no custody agreement. Shared parenting is defined, in sum, as both parents sharing equally in the legal responsibility and control of a child, as well as sharing at or near equally in the living time and physical care of the child.
A presumption of shared parenting means that the “default” would be an award of shared parenting: if a parent seeks sole custody, he or she has to prove that shared parenting would be detrimental to the child.
In rendering an order of custody to one parent, which is explicitly labeled as second choice to shared parenting, the court would be prohibited from preferring one parent to the other on the basis of gender. The court would also be mandated to consider which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the other parent.
The text of S05316 contains great strides toward gender equality as it relates to custody. A presumption that shared parenting be awarded recognizes that a father deserves to parent his children just as much as a mother does and that a father is just as able to parent as a mother is.
The bar on awarding sole custody due to a gender preference not only recognizes that a gender bias currently exists, but also takes measure to keep that bias from influencing a court’s decision.
Various reports, along with the organization’s own website, show that the National Organization for Women (NOW) has been one of the largest opponents to the bill.
The opposition memo to the 2006 version of the bill on NOW’s website cites various “justifications” for their opposition to the bill many of which involve the assumption that fathers are abusers, controlling, etc., and which make the false assumption that shared parenting would still be awarded in cases where there are legitimate issues of domestic violence.
How ironic and disappointing that an organization which purports to combat gender inequality and discrimination take such a stance.
While the existence of this bill and its continued sponsorship in the Legislature is positive for the advancement of gender equality, the fact that is has yet to be voted on, and for 14 years no less, is astonishing and deserves attention.
If you wish to express your support for the bill, email, call or write your senator and your local assembly member.