Without joint custody, children are the biggest losers

Why must kids miss out on certain family relationships when parents separate? It’s cruel for children, who love both parents, to suddenly lose access to everything they once knew when their parents no longer want to live together. Does a child's love and need for both parents suddenly end when parents decide to separate?

When parents separate, even if it’s amicable, it’s a traumatic event. It’s hard for the parents, relatives, friends, and especially children. Barring exceptional circumstances, a child’s right to both loving, fit parents should not be allowed to be used as leverage against the other while personal differences are ironed out in a settlement or in family court.

Our culture is due for a drastic paradigm shift. It’s time to stop seeing one parent as the default and the other as just a visitor. These assumptions are often sexist and outdated. If the parents can no longer live together, the next best thing is for the child to have equal time with each parent.

Our current domestic relations law here in New York State makes no effort to require, or even encourage, that healthy, fit, loving parents spend equal time with their child after a separation. Family courts usually pick one parent  to “win custody.”

However, in the long run, the children are the biggest losers. When one side of their family suddenly is cut off, children have a strained relationship with not only the non-custodial parent, but the extended family as well. For example, they may rarely see their aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents whom they used to see frequently. Extended family relationships are often a vital support system.

Child-custody cases in New York State today can last for weeks, months, or years. During this time, the child, under current custom, is oftentimes denied the best of both parents while a judgement is determined.

Setting a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting for temporary orders, with room for exceptions if one parent is demonstrably unfit, will shift the starting point to what’s best for children. It will also free a judge’s time to review and consider more challenging matters.

The new bill in the New York State Legislature, sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Tague sets a standard of equal time with each parent during this crucial moment — a time when a child needs all the support, reassurance and stability as possible.

Bill A09819 will add a rebuttable presumption in temporary child-custody proceedings. This legislation specifically takes into account the children’s best interest, and encourages outcomes of shared parental responsibility when possible while completely preserving judicial discretion.

More than 20 states have recently considered shared custody, and an increasing number have adopted statutes in favor of some form of shared parenting. The concept of shared parenting has been validated by social science as well, with about 50 studies endorsing equal custody as best for children in most circumstances.

Shared parenting not only is best for children but it can help close the pay gap often associated with one parent not being able to fully participate in the workforce. Neither parent is forced to work long hours at work and have to also bear the complete burden of child care at night.

Sharing those responsibilities is a win-win for all involved. Parents can have more time to focus on their careers, care for one of their own parents, be more physically and mentally fit, and possibly start a new relationship.

In 2017, Kentucky passed the nation’s first true shared-parenting law. It was the state’s most popular law of the year. In addition to its popularity, since the law went into effect, it has helped decrease conflict in family court. The law is effective and extremely successful. Family court filings are down 11 percent, and domestic violence claims are down 445 cases. 

Why is Kentucky, a conservative “red” state, more progressive than a state like New York? Are we truly progressive in this state or are we interested in preserving the status quo?

It’s time for the New York State Legislature to look past the special interests that benefit from our broken family court system. We should be focusing our attention on what children want and need — as much time as possible with both loving, fit, and caring parents.

If we don’t push for what’s best for our children, we are giving into the desires of special-interest groups who are fighting to protect the outdated system we all know hasn’t worked. If we don’t change our law and customs and do what’s right for our children, we are essentially rallying against our children and propping up a system that works only for those who benefit from continuous conflict.

Assemblyman Chris Tague’s bill A09819 should have bipartisan support. Call your local representative and ask them to support this new legislation that will show just how “progressive” New York can be.

Let’s do what’s right for our children and update the law so children won’t lose significant contact with loving parents. When parents separate, the family doesn’t end; it just gets rearranged. 

Clayton Craddock


New York Affiliate of

National Parents Organization

Editor’s note: The National Parents Organization is a not-for-profit organization focused on promoting shared parenting, where both parents have equal standing raising children after a separation or divorce. Clayton Craddock says, “I’m a father who has an equal shared parenting arrangement with my ex-wife. After 12 years apart, it continues to be in the best interest of our children.”


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