By Christian Paasch, chairman, National Parents Organization of Virginia, Alexandria
To the editor:
In 2014, Virginia was home to 552,000 children living in split homes. This number amounts to 31 percent of all of Virginia’s children — a percentage that is greater than the rate in 38 other states. While we may not be able to have an impact on parents’ decisions to split or stay together, we absolutely can affect what is in the best interest of the children in those split homes.
As unfortunate as it may be, the reality is that divorce and separations happen, and when it does, we need to have a system in place that protects children from being yanked away from one or the other parent.
To be clear, we are not talking about the cases of verified domestic abuse or serious issues with drug and alcohol abuse. We are talking about the majority of families who split up but do not detest or want to avoid each other at all costs in the future. The children in these families deserve to have both parents in their lives, to the maximum extent possible. Even where the parents are not colocated, a minimum of 35 percent of time with each parent is certainly feasible and easily ordered by the courts.
Unfortunately, that is often not the case in Virginia. A majority of the time, one parent is declared the “winner” and the other is declared the “loser.” All semblance of encouraging cooperative behavior is thrown out the window in the pursuit of establishing this dichotomy, and this combative dynamic drives up court costs, increases stress and can lead to poor outcome for children.
Why this happens is a complex question, but there is a solution. We have the option to work together to change the way the wellbeing of our children is determined in today’s family courts. That choice is joining the National Parents Organization in Virginia.
The NPO is the only and largest organization of its kind to bring men and women together around the typically contentious issue of child custody and allow them to work sensibly, methodically and progressively toward a common-sense solution that limits the burden on our government, decreases the stress on parents and maximizes the well-being and potential of our children. The NPO’s efforts to assess the state of child custody include issuing the Shared Parenting Report Card, which served as the first study to grade each state on how well state laws support shared parenting.
We invite you to join us. Come find out what we’re all about. Check out our Virginia Chapter website at https://www.nationalparentsorganization.org/affiliate-network/va/news/mzu. We are volunteers looking to make a real, lasting difference. We have already accomplished much in our first year and look forward to continuing our collective progress toward passing legislation that implements shared parenting, while also addressing the concerns that have hampered its passage in the past.
Let’s work together rather than against each other. That belief lies at the core of our approach to taking back the raising of our kids. Join us and find out why we are driving the solution not only in Virginia but also in as many as 20 other states across the nation, and counting.