Matt Hale: WV needs to adopt shared parenting law
A child can feel on top of the world in Huntington riding the Big Dipper. His life can be saved at the city’s amazing medical facilities or his future can be made at Marshall University. Huntington has always done so much for kids. Now it’s time Huntington does something else crucial for children.
On either side of West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia have declared that their children deserve both parents but West Virginia has not. Both states recently passed shared parenting laws that encourage courts to award equal time with both parents (if fit). These common sense laws are called “shared parenting.” Shared parenting is defined as equal decision making (“joint custody”) and equal parenting time.
In the Ashland-Huntington area, are children on the Kentucky side more important than kids in West Virginia? Of course not. But with Kentucky’s new law, Ashland children enjoy the best shared parenting law in the country. Kentucky statutes declare that “there shall be a presumption, rebuttable by a preponderance of evidence, that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child.” West Virginia’s law covering Huntington, 48-9-206, makes no effort to require, or even encourage, that healthy parents spend equal time with their child. In other words, West Virginia courts generally still pick someone “to win custody” and someone “to lose custody.” But in the end, it’s the kids who lose when they lose one parent.
However, research shows that shared parenting children are winners. Shared parenting children are more likely to be involved in football or music contests than sole custody children. Children who see both parents are also less likely to do drugs or have premarital sex.
The funny thing is that both parents win, too. Neither is denied his or her half of parenting time. Neither parent is forced to work all day long and then be a single parent all night long every day. They have half their evenings and weekends to focus on their careers, tend to one of their own parents or start a new relationship.
To help West Virginia’s kids win, Huntington is once again stepping forward. The group that led the push to get Kentucky and Virginia’s laws passed, the National Parents Organization, has recently started a West Virginia affiliate. Several greater Huntington area residents are part of the team starting the chapter.
Their goal is to make West Virginia law state what we all know - kids deserve both parents. And, both parents, if capable, deserve to continue being parents after families end. They need to be true parents, custodial parents, not “visitors.” Join them so that Huntington can help all of West Virginia’s kids reach the top of the Big Dipper and in life. Email West Virginia’s National Parents Organization state chairman, Chad Phillips, at firstname.lastname@example.org to help.
Matt Hale is chair of the National Parents Organization of Kentucky.