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FLORIDA HOUSE, SENATE SEND SHARED PARENTING LEGISLATION FOR GOVERNOR'S SIGNATURE

BOSTON, March 8, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- National Parents Organization is pleased to announce that the Florida Legislature has passed a shared parenting bill that is headed to Gov. Rick Scott for signature to become the new law in the State of Florida.

On the heels of the Florida Senate's passage last week of CS/CS/SB 668, the Florida House of Representatives adopted and passed the bill Tuesday, March 8, bringing Florida to the forefront of a national movement to reform the family courts and support shared parenting – a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after divorce. The bill aligns with the growing body of evidence showing shared parenting is in the best interest of children in most cases when parents divorce.

Specifically, the bill holds that approximately equal time with each parent is in the best interest of the child when parents divorce. The legislation also requires a judge to produce written findings of fact to justify a parenting plan – a change that would encourage judges to pay more attention to research on children's best interests. The move could be a significant change, considering shared parenting occurs less than 20 percent of the time after divorce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The bill would also make important reforms to the laws concerning alimony awards.

"Thank you, members of the Florida House and Senate, for standing up for what children most want and need," said Dr. Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Board Chair of National Parents Organization. "Millions of American children are suffering from the outmoded practices of the family courts of awarding custody to just one parent, with only a few days per month of parenting time with the other parent. This custody model is not in the best interest of most children. It causes heartache for children, who ardently desire the love and guidance of both parents. And such children do more poorly in school, have higher rates of substance abuse, drop out more frequently, and have higher rates of delinquency, gang activity and trouble with the law."

While shared parenting is unusual, efforts to turn it from the exception to the norm within family courts are growing. For instance, The Wall Street Journal revealed that nearly 20 states have proposed shared parenting laws. At least three states have recently implemented reform, and numerous states are currently considering shared parenting legislation. Additionally, shared parenting has received high-profile endorsements, including support from the Catholic Church as well as the 2015 International Conference on Shared Parenting and the Council of Europe.

Troy Matson, Chair of National Parents Organization of Florida, said, "This bill becoming law will allow the conversation to begin, rather than end, with the two-parent solution when parents divorce. Too many Florida children have suffered with the current status quo of parents entering courtrooms on unequal footing. I commend the Florida Legislature for righting this wrong, and I urge Florida's Governor, Rick Scott, to sign this common sense solution into law for the sake of Florida's families."

RECENT RESEARCH: SHARED PARENTING VERSUS SINGLE PARENTING

Shared Parenting Data

The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled "Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?" in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children's health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.

The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled "Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report" in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, "... shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children."

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, "Children's best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families."

Single Parenting Data

According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:

• 63% of teen suicides;

• 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;

• 71% of high school drop-outs;

• 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;

• 85% of those in prison;

• 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and

• 90% of homeless and runaway children.

ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION

National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child's strong bond with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. In 2014, National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org.

CONTACT: Nancy Rigdon, nancyrigdon@nationalparentsorganization.orgSource:National Parents Organization