JOURNEY TO EQUAL SHARED PARENTING

FUANGuest Contributor, News & Events

FUAN Title image. Molly K Olson, author of The Journey to Equal Shared Parenting for Kids of Divorced and Separated Parents

This article is a guest post By Molly K Olson – A version of this article was originally published January 7, 2019, in The Mankato Times.

FUAN Title image. Molly K Olson, author of The Journey to Equal Shared Parenting for Kids of Divorced and Separated Parents

The Short Version of Who I Am, What I Do, and Why

I'm Molly K Olson. 2019 is a milestone year. It’s an anniversary year. However, it’s not an anniversary that comes with celebration, but rather exhaustion and disbelief. 2019 marks my 20th year as an unpaid volunteer citizen activist.

I educate parents, legislators, policymakers, many task forces, and advocates across the country on the need and importance of a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting. This is a non-partisan issue with bi-partisan support – something rare these days.

Volumes of credible peer-reviewed social science research over four decades, and every public poll across the United States demonstrate with consistent resolve: Equal Shared Parenting creates the best outcomes and the highest levels of wellbeing (present and future) for children of divorced and separated parents.

Children don’t need their moms any more than they need their dads. Setting aside same-sex partners for the moment, moms can’t be dads; dads can’t be moms. Both parents add unique but equally important value to the child, usually offering synergistic benefits.

I started advocating for children and equal parenting in the year 2000 when I was about to turn 40 years old. Having no kids of my own, at that time, I was looking for volunteer work that would give me an opportunity to do something meaningful with and for children.

I know the heartbreak, and sense of loss, of not having my own children. With that backdrop, I starting seeing firsthand how family courts were unilaterally, without just cause, and with systematic and reckless ease, and totally bias and subjective judgments, restricting a child’s access to their fit, loving fathers in family court, as if kids were nothing more than widgets on a factory line. I could share the heartbreak of parents, who were left marginalized.

The paternal side of my family was equally significant in my childhood as my maternal relatives. They offered uniquely different perspectives and relationships. Both helped form who I am today. I could then imagine the heartbreak a child must feel (or never know) being virtually cut off from one entire side of the family. If dads only get every other weekend. The child(ren) see the paternal relatives even less.

The more I asked parents, particularly fathers, their thoughts on this issue, the more I realized how the silent majority of divorced and separated fathers were feeling – alienated and restricted from their kids, without just cause. Fathers, who by most accounts are great and involved fathers, have been considered mostly insignificant and dispensable by too many family court judges. This has negative consequences for kids.

Governor Mark Dayton delivers his first State of the State address to a Joint Session of the Minnesota Legislature, laying out his vision for a better Minnesota.
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/governordayton/5432302718/in/album-72157625894333553/ CC-BY 2.0

I decided to do something about it. My first attempts at legislative change and family law reform in 2000 was a rude awakening. As “Jane Q Citizen” (a nobody), I quickly saw the power the legal system had at the legislature. I saw how lobbyists for the legal profession will do anything and say anything to maintain their power over how family law was written. I thought the legislature was “for the people.”

But it became quickly apparent that several elite groups of lobbyists who were hired to protect the legal profession were all too eager to put the best interests of lawyers over the best interests of children.

Seeing what I was up against, I decided to start a group to rally like-minded citizens together. In the year 2000, we met around my kitchen table. When we outgrew the kitchen, we met in my garage. Not long after that, I started the Center for Parental Responsibility (CPR). The mission is to remove the obstacles that prevent both parents from being fully and equally involved in the lives of their children.

Job #1: Equal Shared Parenting after divorce and separation because it provides the best outcomes for children. CPR has always been a grassroots, people-helping-people organization, with no funding and no paid employees, just the power of people who are fed up with the bias in family court.

For many years we met monthly at a local law school. Social media and other forms of electronic communication have now changed the way advocates rally together. The number of groups trying to achieve equal shared parenting in Minnesota and across the country is constantly increasing.

I became co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting in 2013. This international organization demonstrates it is not just men who want this change, but women support this cause also.

For nineteen years I have had some sort of bill at the legislature to remove the bias against fathers that creates unwarranted court forced fatherlessness. The most important step is to achieve equal shared parenting after divorce and separation, as a baseline starting point for fit, loving, healthy, responsible parents who are ready, willing, and able to consistently share equally in the responsibility of raising their children after divorce or separation.

In 2012, Minnesota legislators told us they got more calls in favor of equal shared parenting than they did for the Vikings Stadium. The stadium is built. The equal shared parenting bill was vetoed. But we press on.

Call to Action: If you believe state law and court practices need to change to protect a child’s relationship with both parents, call and email as many state legislators as you can and tell them you support a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting, and ask when they will finally make this change in the law for Minnesota children. Contact us for more information on how you can help make a difference.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Molly K Olson is the Founder of the Center for Parental Responsibility (JPCeffort@cpr-mn.org) and Co-Founder Leading Women for Shared Parenting (www.lw4sp.org)