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More than three dozen medical studies indicate that shared parenting arrangements after divorce – joint decision making and near-equal parenting time -- provide the best outcomes for children. These studies also show that every-other-weekend parenting time arrangements, which are commonly ordered by Nebraska judges, are harmful to children.

Shared parenting reform bills have been introduced in the Unicameral every year for the past several years. Despite the strong consensus in the mental health literature in favor of shared parenting, the Nebraska State Bar Association has opposed every shared parenting reform bill. You might ask what vital interest of lawyers causes the NSBA to oppose these bills.

Shared parenting laws have been shown to reduce the level of conflict between parents. This is important because conflict between parents creates an enormous amount of stress for the kids, which can lead to emotional and medical problems. However, lawyers like conflict because it gives them things to fight about and increases their fees. Lawyers dislike shared parenting laws because it reduces their fees. Shared parenting -- good for kids, bad for lawyers.

Is this why the NSBA opposes shared parenting proposals time and time again? The NSBA has been asked numerous times to make a proposal -– any proposal -– to help kids caught in custody disputes but they haven’t offered any. Not one.

Shared parenting laws reduce the ability of parents to use kids as leverage in property and child support disputes. One of the more unseemly aspects of family law is the buying and selling of children. This usually takes the form of “You want more time with the kids, then you need to increase my child support.” In extreme cases, one parent may abduct the kids or deny access to them unless the other parent agrees to make a payment. While rarely discussed outside the court house, the buying and selling of children is a routine part of Nebraska divorces. Shared parenting laws treat kids as human beings instead of chattel that can be bought and sold. By making it harder to buy and sell kids, shared parenting makes it harder for one parent to extort property from the other. Shared parenting -- good for kids, bad for lawyers.

Shared parenting laws reduce the incidence of divorce. According to the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, "two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. [However,] in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower." One study found shared parenting was associated with a lowering of divorce rates in 19 states surveyed. Divorce is extremely harmful to children and reducing divorce rates would improve outcomes for many children. However, it would also reduce the need for divorce lawyers. Shared parenting -- good for kids, bad for lawyers.

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Shared parenting provides the best outcomes for kids. Isn’t it time the Nebraska State Bar Association put the kids first?

Dr. Les Veskrna is a Lincoln family physician and executive director of the Children’s Rights Council.


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