What Does It Mean that Alabama’s Parenting Statutes Rate a “D”?

This one’s obviously designed to garner headlines, and it seems to be working. The ambitiously named National Parents Organization has issued “report cards” for the parenting statutes of each state, finding nearly half those statutes – including Alabama’s – deserve a “D.” Here’s one of the articles about it.

Oh my! This sounds terrible. We obviously need to convene a special session of the legislature and repair this grave condition right away. If we slow down and look at the organization and its report card, however, we’re able to gain a needed sense of perspective. The National Parents Organization is a group on a mission – to impose on every divorcing couple and every family law judge its preference for equal time parenting.

Let me digress here and speak very personally about equal time parenting. Working exclusively as I do with husbands and wives who are able to be reasonably cooperative with each other, I have seen many, many divorces for which shared parenting and equal time parenting arrangements made all the sense in the world. The children appreciated their time with each parent (and sometimes resented each parent – after all that’s what teenagers do) in like measure. The parents were able to work together even though their marriage was ending to make sure the children had lots of time with each parent and with each other. And listen carefully here: the judge approved it with no objection or difficulty.

On the other hand, if Mom and Dad have trouble agreeing about the color of the sky and seem unable to have a civil conversation, insisting that they each spend the same amount of time with the children is a prescription for constant conflict. Children grow weary of that conflict, learning to avoid the subject entirely and stuff their pain and frustration down deep in their rucksack. In those cases, the judge needs the discretion to apply the time-honored principle of protecting the children’s best interest and order a parenting plan that gives more stability.

For the National Parents Organization to downgrade a state’s parenting statute is roughly equivalent to the National Oatmeal Society’s labeling as failures all who likeĀ bacon and eggs for breakfast. We get it; you’ve got your agenda, and we’re not following it. Hardly the stuff of headlines.

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