Policy reform—Equally Shared Parenting

shared parenting policy

Resources to help educate legislators, voters and activists to understand the facts about equally shared parenting studies and trends.

Videos about equally shared parenting

2021 Georgia Legislature Judiciary Committee hearing testimony on behalf of House Bill 1140 advocating for a presumption of equally shared parenting:

Our PSA, ‘Equally Shared Parenting: A Feminist Issue’ is a finalist in the California Women’s Film Festival, and viewed more than 300,000 times.

Facts about equally shared parenting

I represent Moms for Shared Parenting, a feminist organization focused on changing parenting culture and policy. I am also founder of WealthySingleMommy.com, an award-winning platform that is the largest community of single moms worldwide, and have spoken about the benefits of equally shared parenting at the United Nations, Google, and before the Georgia State Legislature. 

There is no argument: Equally shared parenting is what is best for children, and it is what is best for women, men and equality. Also: Equally shared parenting laws work! 

Here is the research.

Examples of successful equal parenting laws 

In 2017, the Kentucky legislature passed — by a 6:1 margin — the country’s first mandate of equally shared parenting when parents separate or divorce. Results:

  • Within two years family court filings dropped by more than 11%, not accounting for the population within the state, or the nationwide increase in divorce filings. 
  • Family court filings that involved domestic violence during those two years declined by nearly 700 cases, or 4% drop overall, a victory heralded by Kentucky domestic violence advocates. 

Benefits to children: 

  • An analysis of 60-peer reviewed studies by Wake Forest University’s Dr. Linda Nielson found that children of separated families fare best when they share time equally between parents’ homes.
  • Unequal parenting schedules is found to directly correlate with men checking out of their childrens’ lives. Fatherlessness is attributed to more than 30 outcomes, including dropout, incarceration and drug use rates, teen sexual activity and pregnancy, poor academic performance and lifelong employment and relationship challenges. 
  • Studies find that dads with more parenting time with their kids are more likely to pay child support. In fact, at a recent committee hearing for a shared-parenting bill in Georgia, an administrator for that state’s child support enforcement agency, advocated for a rebuttable presumption of equal parenting time in anticipation of increased federal pressure on states for child support compliance. 

Benefits to women

  • I recently conducted a survey of 2,279 U.S. single moms, and the findings were clear: The more equality moms have in their parenting schedules, the more they are likely to earn. In fact, single mothers with 50/50 parenting schedules are 324% more likely to earn $100,000 than those with sole custody. 
  • The majority of single moms want 50/50 parenting schedules. Parenting equality is popular with single moms of all income levels. 
  • Single mothers believe that more parenting time equality would allow them to have more time to invest in their careers and earning — as well as overall wellbeing. 

Benefits to men 

When men are viewed by the law, courts and culture as equal parents, they engage more with their children, are happier and less prone to mental and physical health issues.

Benefits to the community

When separated and divorced moms and dads share parenting time and responsibilities equally, everyone wins. 

  • Single moms are freer to work and earn equally to single dads, which is good for employers, the economy, and lessens co-parenting conflict that burdens courts and increased dependency on child support.
  • Family courts are less burdened by non-critical issues.
  • Long-term, when children are supported by two loving parents, they are more likely to be citizens who contribute to — and not buren — on all of our public and private systems.

I believe the reasons that the majority of single-parent families default to unequal parenting schedules is complex, but often rooted in now-dated, but once-cutting edge psychological studies that suggested that children fared best when they had one primary home with one primary parent. That science has since been far superseded by scores of new studies, and decades of data that can guide policymakers like yourself steer our laws and culture in ways that we know benefit kids, families, and our communities.

How Kentucky passed its equally shared parenting law

Matt Hale is a shared parenting hero. In this interview, Matt shares in detail how in 2017 a bill he authored passed Kentucky’s legislature, becoming the first law in the United States to create a rebuttable presumption of equal parenting time for parents who live separately. Summary of how Matt did it:

* Worked at a private citizen, did not form or work under any organization.

* Matt is not a victim of a bad custody story, and in fact has a successful 50/50 co-parenting arrangement. His message was consistently positive, focused on what is best for children, and not on his own saga.

* He proactively reached out to domestic violence groups to gain support in advance of a vote.

* Focused on the facts from relevant authorities, specifically Dr. Ryan Schroeder, of the University of Louisville, with whom he worked alongside.

* Took relevant polling throughout to prove popular support of the bill and new law.

* Lobbied thoroughly with legislators, so there were no surprises when votes were counted. He knew exactly what to expect in advance.

* Had ONE bill, and didn’t get distracted or confuse legislators with child support reform, parental alienation or other issues.

*Kept a lean team — his committee hearing was attended by Matt’s personal family (and not a bevy of activists or experts).

How to start a revolution and change hearts and minds, Lessons from Free-Range Kids’ Lenore Skenazy

Lenore Skenazy is known for launching the Free-Range Kids movement, for which she has been featured on TODAY, NPR, Joh Stewart’s The Daily Show, and was a Jeopardy question!

This 30-year journalism veteran and now activist shares how to change people’s behavior through effective communication. Skenazy, who now runs LetGrow, a nonprofit devoted to promoting free play for kids and policy to allow parents to do so, shared this advice with the shared-parenting community:

  • It is impossible to pass policy without first changing culture.
  • Positive stories win.
  • The best way to change someone’s mind is to give them easy ways to experience the new behavior you want them to embrace. In her case, school policies requiring kids to tackle an independent task allow parents to experience free-range parenting and how happy it makes their kids. THEN their minds change.
  • Lenore is always kind and aims to understand the social and cultural pressures that make people behave the way they do. She does not blame or shame.
  • She built her activism as she learned. Lenore learned by listening to the many people who shared their stories, POVs and fears with her. Again: Empathy.

A note to my fellow equal-parenting activists

Dear Equally Shared Parenting Activists,

First, I love you.

We all care about the same things: Children, equality, fairness. There are so many of us! Hundreds of thousands in the United States! Millions Worldwide! We represent tens of millions of families! Yet we have so little success. Let’s change that!

Let’s get on the same page, work together, and form one, single, elegant message that we will together use again and again. Mantras that can be chanted and roll of the tongues of activists, legislators, journalists, everyday people.

This is how revolutions work.

This is how marketing works.

This is how politics work.

This is how the media work.

This is how the human brain works.

You have 10 seconds to sum up your goal when talking to a legislator, the media, a cynical fellow citizen, a judge. Otherwise, they stop listening, stop respecting you, check out, and you failed.

I come to you with 20 years of experience in marketing and messaging — as a business owner, journalist, and as a consultant.

Here is the message:

We insist on a presumption of 50/50 parenting time!

I will repeat that:

We insist on a presumption of 50/50 parenting time!

  • Stop saying ‘In the case of fit, loving and capable parents.’ NO!!! Constitutional law PRESUMES ALL PARENTS ARE FIT. Change has never come with a long list of nuance and caveats. When you add the ‘in the case of fit … ‘ you are proposing a debate about what is considered ‘fit’ — WHICH IS EXACTLY OPPOSITE OF OUR GOAL!.
  • Stop saying, ‘A minimum of 30% time …’ NO! That is convoluted and confusing, and it is NOT equality! Plus, the science shows better outcomes for kids at 50% time sharing. 50/50. That is it. We will not settle for less than a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing.
  • Lead with facts. STOP LEADING WITH YOUR OWN STORY. Political leaders do not trust you when you open with a horror narrative about your ex. They are not dumb: There is another side to that story. They want facts. Science. EMBRACE THE HUNDREDS OF STUDIES THAT SUPPORT OUR ARGUMENT! I just heard that a state legislator kicked a shared-parenting bill off the priorities list because when he asked the activist for the research, he was met with a two-paragraph personal narrative about the man’s bitch of an ex-wife. FAIL.
  • Related but different: Dads, stop leading with what a great father you are. I get why you do that: The system and our society has denigrated fatherhood and makes you prove your worth before you’re allowed parent. But leading with your merits as a father comes off as defensive. It also perpetuates the presumption that requires men to be amazing fathers before they have equal access to their kids. Lead with the facts, the kids, the research and take yourself out of it. Rise above and challenge the world to join you!
shared parenting policy