This article, Childrens' Rights: The Next Great Civil Rights Issue, is a guest post by Matthew Hickok.
It’s difficult to imagine that in 1692 men and women actually lived their lives in fear that they could be deemed a witch and executed just for exhibiting any sort of abnormal behavior.
In the 1850s, there were those who actually argued that slavery should be allowed to continue because ending it would damage our economy, cause massive unemployment, and put our country in a state of anarchy.
In the late 1910s, anti-suffragists argued that it would be harmful to allow women to vote citing that they were too impressionable, too intuitive, and too emotionally driven.
Perhaps all of these things seem ridiculous to us in our so-called enlightened, modern age, but we are face to face with yet another major injustice, and the arguments against fixing it are unsubstantiated, illogical, perplexing, and downright dangerous. Put simply, there are those who not only believe that children don’t need both of their parents, there are those that even argue in FAVOR of a one-parent household.
The justice system in our country was founded on some basic principles. One is “innocent until proven guilty”. This staple of our law has protected many hundreds of thousands of men and women from being wrongfully imprisoned. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer..”. This presumption is enshrined in our laws, or at least our criminal laws.
The other is that fundamental rights are protected and that these rights are not subject to majority rule or popular rule and require a high standard of proof. This means that the lawful choices that each parent makes cannot be considered or used against them and therefore shared parenting must be presumed.
Those who have been through the family court system in Iowa know that no such presumptions exist. If a parent is accused of being less than the best or better parent, nothing more may be needed than just that testimony. Even without allegations of harm, though not explicitly stated in the law, the presumption is that one parent will have roughly 85% of the parenting time, while the other parent will have every other weekend and pay child support. This goes against the findings of every recent, credible, and peer-reviewed study that has found unanimously that Shared Parenting (equal or near equal) benefits the majority of children. This also goes against the law where a child has a right to be raised and nurtured and benefit from each of its fit parents.
In response to these findings, Families United Action Network, in partnership with the legislators of Iowa, have launched numerous bids to protect a child’s relationship with both parents in a divorce or custody dispute. 2019 saw Senate File 571 (SF571) introduced that would create a rebuttable presumption that joint physical care is what is best for the child(ren). The presumption is able to be overcome with clear and convincing evidence of abuse, neglect, or other significant harm to the child. The bill was recently recommended for passage by the Iowa Senate Subcommittee and was masterfully defended by Senator Julian Garrett, who did his due diligence in moving from merely being a supporter to becoming a subject matter expert.
Opponents of this bill state that “we can’t have a one-size-fits-all presumption”. The fact is, we already do. We can predict with extraordinary accuracy not just how often each parent will see their child but also on what days and times. It is as cookie cutter as it gets.
They cite that clear and convincing is too high an evidentiary standard, and that it would be difficult to overcome. That is actually a great thing. It should be difficult. Losing a parent is one of the most traumatic experiences a child can endure. If a parent is to be removed or marginalized, we ought to be absolutely sure that this was the right decision. Otherwise, it is like (to put it in simple terms) convicting people of stealing a candy bar without any evidence and using this action to deem them as an unfit parent.
Lastly, they argue that Shared Parenting will make it difficult for women to escape their abusers. This ignores that women can be and are just as abusive as men, that sometimes the abuser is currently the one getting custody, often through a well-placed false allegation, and that all existing protections against domestic violence will remain intact. It’s an emotional scare tactic that isn’t supported by current research and is the modern-day equivalent of screaming Boogeyman. ALL existing protections against domestic violence in the current code will remain intact with the passage of SF571.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, the opposition is unwilling, or more likely UNABLE, to cite any research that supports their tenuous position. Though they often cite anecdotal experiences of working in the court system for many years as proof of their expertise, they lack the training and knowledge possessed by the world’s leading psychologists and researchers.
The research is crystal clear. A rebuttable presumption of Shared Parenting protects parent/child relationships, reduces conflict, minimizes unnecessary litigation, and produces happier, more successful, more well-adjusted children than any other potential outcome. Children in Shared Parenting arrangements perform better in school, are less likely to do drugs, are less likely to have children of their own at too young an age, are less likely to be anxious or depressed, and are less likely to commit suicide. The benefits are numerous and undeniable.
Just the same as those who believed in executing people merely suspected of witchcraft, those who argued the merits of and supported slavery, those who opposed women’s suffrage, and those who fought against racial equality, history will not remember those who opposed Shared Parenting fondly.
About Matthew Hickok, A FUAN Guest Blogger,
Matthew Hickok is from Waterloo, Iowa. He is a 2015 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in actuarial science and is employed as a Risk Analyst at Transamerica in Cedar Rapids. He got involved with FUAN when it was merely a dream in Nick Dreeszen’s mind. Matt is the CRC Chairman, a Shared Parenting lobbyist, and co-founder of FUAN. He enjoys doing Facebook Live videos to rally support throughout the state.
Matthew has five children: Jasmine, Cameron, Matthew Jr., Lakota, and James. He has experienced divorce both as a child and a father. He is currently an every other weekend dad with an active court case to get shared parenting with them. His dream is to one day live in a world where children won't be unjustly separated from their loving parents.
Matthew's other passions include mathematics, self-improvement, lifting weights, running, reading, learning, traveling, and planning unique dates.