Given that most Americans believe children should have a relationship with both their mother and their father, one has to wonder why state legislators and family court judges think children need only a mother and a check following divorce ("Dad, mom in home is essential, Americans say," Nation, Friday).
The answer, basically, is that legislators and family court judges follow feminist jurisprudence, mothers' wishes, the money from divorce lawyers and the domestic violence industry rather than the best interests of the child. Research indicates that having parents divorce is stressful for children but that having the government intervene to divorce children from their fathers makes developmental outcomes even worse.
Specifically, social-science research clearly shows that the children of divorce fare best when the structure of the post-divorce family resembles most closely the structure of the intact, married family, which is divorce law based on the presumption of equal, shared parenting, and fare worst when the father-child relationship is severed or marginalized by family court awards of physical custody to the mother with visitation to the father. This scenario represents 85 percent to 90 percent of divorces. Most critically, the children of divorce want equal shared parenting following divorce.
Taxpayers have a vested interest in shared, equal custody following divorce. Research demonstrates that fathers have a far greater impact on attenuating negative adolescent and young adult developmental outcomes and high-risk sexual, drug, alcohol and criminal behaviors than do mothers. Attenuating negative outcomes not only saves taxpayer dollars but also saves children emotional pain.
I urge all Americans to take a moment to think about the children of divorce, think about contacting their elected officials and consider asking them to serve children, not special interests.
GORDON E. FINLEY
Emeritus professor of psychology
Florida International University
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