Celebrate Father’s Day with shared parenting

virginia-newBy Christian Paasch 

Every Father’s Day, my son and I run in the ZERO Prostate Cancer charity 5K.  We started this tradition when he was an infant (pushing a jogging stroller uphill is a great workout … as is controlling it going downhill), and we continue it to this day.  Last year, I decided he was old enough to run the 1-mile short race with me on his own.  This is certainly a great way to celebrate Father’s Day, though it is thankfully not the only one.  While we all celebrate Father’s Day in our own way, this year, I encourage everyone to also join together to support reform that nearly 20 state legislatures recently proposed: shared parenting when parents divorce or separate.  After all, the history of Father’s Day supports the spirit of shared parenting, where mom and dad are equals post-split when it comes to raising their children.

Coincidentally, the idea of celebrating Father’s Day was initiated by a woman: Ms. Sonora Dodd, a loving daughter from Spokane, Washington, whose efforts resulted in the creation of the “Father’s Day Festival.”  Her father, Henry Jackson Smart, single-handedly raised Sonora and five of her siblings after the death of their mother during childbirth.  When Sonora attended a Mother’s Day Sermon in 1909, she thought that if there was a day to honor mothers, then there should also be a corresponding day to honor fathers.  Though ridiculed at times, Sonora worked relentlessly for years to ensure that the idea of her Father’s Day Festival became a reality.  In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recognized Father’s Day officially for the first time.  In view of the massive popularity of the festival, in 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the third Sunday of June.   Over the years, the concept of celebrating Father’s Day spread beyond geographical boundaries.  Today, millions of children across the world express gratitude for their dads as they celebrate what began as “Father’s Day Festival.”

What better way to honor Sonora’s work and Father’s Day than to support a movement that is not only sweeping the nation but is also actively and proudly supported by both men and women?  The National Parents Organization, whose membership is approximately 40% women, asks Virginia to join almost half of the country in supporting shared parenting legislation at its next opportunity.  In Virginia, National Parents Organization is building a coalition among state child support advocates, family law attorneys, state legislators, Virginia’s Commission on Youth and, most importantly, everyday citizens who can absolutely make a difference in the lives of Virginia’s children.  We believe there is a smarter way of doing business, we know we can get there, and we invite you tojoin us.

People are often surprised to learn that family courts award sole custody, usually to mothers, about 80 percent of the time (as opposed to the more equal custody split found in shared parenting).  However, the facts supporting shared parenting are mounting and undeniable.  Shared parenting benefits children, it does not threaten any sound practices and it bolsters or modernizes existing policies.  Consider:

  • 32 family law experts in the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts last year concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing & shared parenting relationships…”
  • 110 child development experts involved in 2014’s “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” found that “…shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages…”
  • A recent study from Arizona State University discovered that child support compliance increased to 97% when shared parenting is awarded.
  • Alaska has established a legal presumption of shared parenting during temporary orders, while Oklahoma and Utah have passed legislation that clears the way for shared parenting in temporary orders.  Plus, almost 20 other states considered shared parenting legislation this year.

Mothers and fathers can, should and even must co-exist for our children’s sake.  Mother’s Day highlights the incredible and beneficial role moms play in a child’s life, and Father’s Day communicates the same strong, appropriate and timely message of the equally incredible and critical role that dads play in their child’s life.  Sonora Dodd understood this.  It is time modern American society understands and acknowledges this as well by pushing for shared parenting in our nation’s family courts.

The concept is shared parenting.  The work can be accomplished.  And the time is now.

Christian Paasch is Chair of the Executive Committee in National Parents Organization of Virginia


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