During the height of COVID disruptions in 2020, Chief Administrative Judge Michael A. Albis reformed Connecticut’s Family Court system through his bold Triage & Pathways Initiative. Key provisions of the new approach, early intervention by Family Relations and new court procedures taking effect October 1, 2021 (per Public Act 21-104) allow two fit parents satisfying certain conditions to take charge of their parenting plan without hiring lawyers, filing any motions, or arguing in front of a judge.
Mediation through Family Relations or a mediator the parents select is now encouraged by Triage and Pathways. Judge Albis’ own words explain:
This approach promotes cooperative child-centered solutions rather than adversarial litigation, which often discourages separated parents from focusing on raising their children. Triage & Pathways procedures encourage parents to learn about co-parenting and parallel parenting their children in split households. Parents can use the money they might pay to lawyers and court ordered professionals – usually $15,000 and often much, much more – to benefit their children.
National Parents Organization (sharedparenting.org), together with the Shared Parenting Council of Connecticut (sharedparentinginc.org), commissioned a survey of the views of Connecticut citizens on the parenting of children from separate households. The survey, which was conducted by the well-respected, independent polling company, Researchscape International in late summer 2021, revealed a stunning consensus: strong support for Triage & Pathways and for shared parenting as the norm when parents live apart.
When asked whether children are best served by procedures that allow them to develop a “parenting plan without hiring lawyers, filing any motions, or arguing in front of a judge,” 80% of both men and women said “yes.” Should a child have a significant amount of time with each fit and willing parent? Over 95% say this arrangement is extremely or very beneficial!
Over 85% of both men and women support a change in Connecticut law to create “a rebuttable presumption that shared parenting is in the best interest of a child after a parental separation.” And a stunning 94% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who “supports children spending significant, up to equal, amounts of time with each parent following parental separation or divorce.” Eighty-three percent think that awarding sole custody to just one parent increases conflict. Here’s a link to full survey results.
What convinces Connecticut parents to support shared parenting? Well, we now have more than 40 years of scientific research showing that, in the vast majority of cases, children are well served by substantial sharing of parental responsibilities by both parents provided that both are fit parents. On every metric of well-being, children who enjoy shared parenting do about as well as children whose parents live together. And they do much better than children raised by only one parent with minimal involvement by the other parent. These conclusions are supported not by a mere handful of studies but by more than 60 independent studies evaluated by Dr. Linda Nielsen (Wake Forest University). (See here for significant recent research.)
Connecticut’s legislature can, and should, take steps to help make shared parenting the norm. Creating a legal presumption that substantial sharing of parental responsibilities is in children’s best interests would help to break the outdated custodial-parent/noncustodial-parent model that too many parents fall into by default. And it would reassure parents that divorce/separation need not diminish their relationship with their children, thereby lowering the level of anxiety and trauma that some parents face when confronting the prospect of being sidelined in their children’s lives.
This is what Connecticut voters overwhelmingly want. It’s what more Connecticut children deserve.
John M. Clapp, PhD and Eric L. Gladstein, DMD, are Chair and Vice Chair, repectively, of the Shared Parenting Council of Connecticut, Inc. The SPC’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to publish this commentary.