Shared Parenting: A Future vision

This a working roadmap to achieve the goal of equally shared parenting for the majority of families in the United States and world. This paper outlines goals, objectives, inspiration and steps to take to reach those goals.


A presumption of equally shared parenting for all separated families.


We will achieve our goal of equally shared parenting through these tactics:

Unified messaging, actions and planning

All efforts will be coordinated throughout different groups, activists and agencies. We are one united front with a shared goal: Equally shared parenting for all families!


Half of separated families are people of color, never married, and poorer than the average U.S. citizen. Our movement absolutely must represent the people we aim to serve!

Diversity means aligning our supporting activists with the general population who overwhelmingly supports equally shared parenting. This means that we actively work to engage liberals and conservatives and others through mainstream media and positive, inclusive messaging.


Without metrics to quantify the problem, measure our efforts, and mark success, not only are we wasting our own time and money, but relegating our movement to a joke in the eyes of philanthropists, government and foundational money and — just smart people we need on our side.

Required reading: The Business of Changing The World, which explains:

Old aid was driven by good intentions and relied on big-budget projects from a few government aid agencies, like the World Bank and USAID. Today, corporations, Silicon Valley start-ups, and billionaire philanthropists are a disrupting force pushing global aid to be data driven and results oriented. This $200 billion industry includes emerging and established foundations like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Entrepreneurial startups like Hello Tractor, which offers an Uber-like app for farmers in Nigeria, and Give Directly, whose app allows individuals to send money straight to the phone of someone in need, are also giving rise to this new culture of charity. The result is a more sustainable philosophy of aid that elevates the voices of the world’s poor as neighbors, partners, and customers.

In other words, there are no brownie points for showing up with legislation — unless it passes! Dumping money into billboards or blog posts or conference sponsorship without measuring ROI is no longer an option. God created data for a reason.

Run a professional organization

Even as a loose network of state organizations, we will systematically share ideas, document best practices and case studies, build on learnings and hold one another accountable to our shared goal. We will systematize judiciary education programs, bill language, lobbying tactics, media messaging, public education, and parenting program initiatives.

As a movement, we will rely on professional consultants and employees to guide efforts— creating systems, achieving goals and attracting important stakeholders. We will continue to serve those victimized by our issue through community and mental health support, while recognizing that victims are rarely effective leading advocates.

Project: Quantify financial cost of current status quo.

Inspiration: McKinsey Study Finds Undervaluing Of Black-Led Projects Costs Hollywood $10 Billion Annually

Let’s court McKinsey as a partner!


For a movement with such widespread reach, we must examine why there is such little funding. Data collection and a focus on serving low-income and minority families will dramatically broaden our ability to fundraise from foundations, governments, think tanks, wealthy individuals. Focus on measured outcomes — and not personal trauma or entitlement to one’s rights — will attract thoughtful and monied individuals personally affected by this issue.

We will cease the predatory practice of fundraising from our base, which is largely emotionally and financially traumatized by the very issue we are seeking to resolve.

4 Pilars of Change:

  1. Culture change
  2. Judiciary reform
  3. Policy
  4. Programs

1. Culture change

Critically study and formulate messaging that does change hearts and minds. Access to Twitter does not make you a media expert!

Useful: “Language Matters” by Frank Bruni

PSAs — Ad Council, thoughtful local campaigns to coordinate with active policy efforts

Campaign Hollywood to include more equal families, or otherwise examine family law issues.

Inspiration: Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media

Inspiration: Gay marriage movement — the HRC was a failure when it focused on legal rights, but won when it changed its narrative to one of family, love, commitment.

PR: Educate mainstream media about equal parenting, pitch story ideas, produce media projects and highlight equal parenting in popular culture as it arises naturally. Examples:

Equal parenting celebrities:

Community education: Host local workshops to help parents understand pros of equal parenting, and how to get there, both in terms of court maneuvering, and positive co-parenting.

Inspiration: Moms Demand Action’s Be Smart program that trains volunteers to host gun safety events in their neighborhoods, schools and churches.

Inspiration: Free-Range Parenting is a social movement that started with a newspaper article and media projects, and is now under the nonprofit Let Grow, which is passing legislation, running community programming, legal aid, and education for parents, academics, legal community, legislators and more.

2. Judiciary reform

Develop a scalable judiciary training program to educate judges, GALs, custody evaluators, family therapists, mediators and other family court employees about the research and benefits of equal parenting.

Dr. William Fabricius work on educating Arizona family court judges and employees ushered in a 50/50 norm before a law was passed in 2013 — and facilitated that law’s unanimous passage.

“We gave judges the facts that the judges knew was right — I built up credibility with the legal community over years,” Fabricius says in this interview. “[Activists] in every state could go to their state university and find a family psychologist for a training session on the research, we are charged to disseminate the research findings could be a useful thing to do in every state.”

3. Policy

Problem: Failure to pass quality equal-parenting laws. Recycling same tactics decade after decade. In-fighting and failure to systematize. Lack of funding. Negative messaging. Laws that grossly lag culture.

Goal: National war room to allocate financial and human resources, led by professional strategists, for a 360-degree campaign that would, varying by need, include:

  • Professional lobbying
  • Integrated local and national media strategy + spend
  • Campaign contributions
  • Systematized volunteer efforts, including data and contact collection and deployment

Discourage amateur state activists from working unsupported. We are a joke to state bar associations. A recent publication called “Bills We Killed” from the Texas bar boasts about how easy it was to defeat a recent equal-parenting bill in that state: “What happened to the bill? First, this was re-filed bill from the previous session, so our lobby team was extensively prepared to battle it through the legislative process. Our lobbyists had heard at the beginning of the legislative session that the freshman representative may file this legislation and went to talk to him.”

Professional lobbyists are a bare minimum effort that would have identified a senior representative sponsor, rewritten the bill to strategically improve chances from previous years and strategic education of policymakers to combat the bar’s ambush — which they repeat and recycle every sesion throughout the country.

Learn from Matt Hale’s stealth, thoughtful leadership in Kentucky.

Learn from other grassroots efforts that achieved success against giant, well-funded opponents. Partner with stakeholders with funds and expertis.

Inspiration: Everytown America / Moms Demand action’s defeat of the NRA in Virginia. It cost $2.5 million — a modest sum to defeat one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the world and flip the legislature.

Inspiration: Cato Institute’s take on Virginia’s law discriminating against same-sex couples’ access to partner health benefits.

4. Programs

Arguably this section should be No. 1. Why? There are already hundreds of millions of government and foundational dollars devoted to father and family issues, directly helping families achieve our goal of equally involved parents.

Shared parenting legislation is irrelevant if all parents do not have access to courts or the judicial process to apply those laws to their families — or cultural norms to establish informal equal parenting plans.

Barriers apply mostly to low-income familes of color, who are largely unmarried at the time of the child’s birth. Challenges include:

  • Lack of awareness about parenting rights
  • Paternity establishment
  • No automatic trigger for parenting plan (unlike divorce)
  • Child support arrears—incarceration cycle
  • Cultural norms — black dads unlikely to initiate court

Examples of programs successfully addressing fatherlessness:

Promundo — decades’ old global program with significant U.S. presence aimed at active father involvement, through a feminist lens.

Aspen Ascend‘s Fatherhood Learning and Action Community: a group of three fathers and 11 organizations with demonstrated expertise in and strong capacity and will to engage and support fathers for family prosperity. This learning and action initiative will identify and document policy barriers, best practices, and opportunities for father engagement and support. It will also package and disseminate policy ideas and strong strategies via print and multi-media tools (e.g., parent stories, social media campaigns, blogs, video clips, and issue briefs) to policymakers, practitioners, and philanthropists. 

Good+ Jessica (Jerry) Seinfeld’s organiation focused on father involvement, especially for formerly incarcerated and low-income dads. Behind Colorado child support reform.

Center for Urban Families The Baltimore Responsible Fatherhood Project (BRFP) is a 3-week training integrated into STRIVE® Baltimore and other CFUF initiatives that utilizes CFUF’s Developing All Dads for Manhood and Parenting (DADMAP) curriculum to assist non-custodial fathers, with low incomes, to increase and build their fatherhood knowledge and skills.

Parenting Time Opportunities for Children: Starting in 2012, five child support agencies tested and evaluated strategies to create formal parenting time arrangements at the same time a child support order was being established. Summary. Federal program.

Access and Visitation (AV) Program provides $10 million in funding
annually to the 54 states and territories. Administered by the Office of
Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) in the Department of Health and
Human Services, the program is designed to increase noncustodial
parents’ access to and time with their children.

Alameda County Fathers Corps support fathers to be meaningfully engaged with their children and to advocate for father-friendly services. 

Fathers and Families Coalition

New York Fatherhood Academy

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