by David Bellow on December 15, 2020 at 12:32 PM
Texas Equal Parenting law HB 803 should be passed this 2021 Legislative Session in order to uphold the Constitution and help millions of children being torn apart in Texas family courts due to unequal parenting standards, and reinforce equality for women.
The Constitution and the rule of law are things Texans hold dear and Texas leaders proudly support, yet in Texas family courts, the data shows a staggering violation of both. The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender. Texas Law goes even further by specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sex or marital status in deciding child custody cases (Texas Family Code Section 153.003).
However, the data obtained through an information request sent to the Texas Attorney General shows that as of 2019, roughly 90% or all Texas Child Custody Cases in the Attorney General database have the father listed as the non-custodial parent vs. roughly 10% of mother’s being listed as the non-custodial parent.
This data makes it clear that Texas Judges are still overwhelmingly basing child custody decisions on sex and gender, even though Texas Law and the Constitution prohibit such bias. There can’t be any other reason. In today’s world, both men and women work and have jobs at a fairly even ratio, so it isn’t the case that 90 percent of fathers work and 10 percent of mothers stay at home. Maybe that was the case decades ago, but times have changed and men and women are much more equal now, and women are closing the gap on the inequalities that might still exist. Yet, the gender equality gap in child custody cases is still drastically biased. The fact is that men and women can both care for their children equally. Both are capable of loving their children and taking them to school and feeding them and providing for their needs. Yet, the data proves that Texas Judges are still drastically discriminating and violating the Constitution and Texas Law that they are supposed to uphold.
From personal experience I can tell you there is in fact a blatant disparity in equality in Texas Family Courts that is deeply rooted in gender bias that violates the Constitution and the rule of law. I am a fantastic farther with my son and there has never been a question about my ability to be a good father, nor have I been accused of harming or neglecting my son. However, when my ex-wife became abusive and started leaving my one-year old son abandoned in a car while she had an affair and then filed for divorce, I was told I would never have a chance to get even equal parenting, much less a chance to get primary custody because she was a woman. Even if she neglected our son, I would still have an uphill fight to get a court to give me equal time and not just a non-custodial parent. My son would cry and cry not wanting to leave me because one weekend every other weekend (4 days a month) is simply not enough time for children to have with a parent, but that is the current Texas law which splits kids from parents. Children want and need both parents in their lives.
In fact, the bias is so blatant that when I went to my first temporary child custody hearing, my attorney came out of the closed-door back-room meeting and told me that the judge told her that he has only given custody to a man twice. My attorney told me that this was the judge’s way of saying that he will not rule for men. I pressed on for equal parenting because my son deserves both a mother and a father. My attorney told me I would never get equal custody because I am a man. Even in mediation, the mediator made it clear that equal custody was not an option because I was a man. This inequality is greatly harming children.
Unequal Parenting is Harming Texas Children and Holding Women Back
So we know that inequality in Texas family courts is a very real thing and the data proves it. And we know that most likely any reasonable explanation of the inequality is rooted in sex and gender bias. Texas Equal Parenting laws would help solve this blatant inequality, because it would make equal parenting the starting point for Judges to order in custody cases when both parents are deemed fit and determined to be joint managing conservators.
Why is equal parenting so important? Equal parenting is important because it will help millions of children who are hurting and will allow women to be more equal and have more equal opportunity.
Unequal Parenting HARMS Children
Sixty peer-reviewed studies prove that it's best for kids when they spend equal time with both parents. Furthermore, not only do we know that equal parenting helps children, we unfortunately also know that unequal parenting harms children GREATLY. This is especially due to the vast number of children who do not have equal time with their father. The stats and facts are shocking and alarming (see infograph above). The majority of teen crime, teen drug use, teen pregnancy, teen suicide, and even nearly all school shooters had unequal parenting and primarily no father. Most of the fatherless America epidemic that is harming children is caused by the family court system in America that incentivizes parents to fight in court over more time and use kids as pawns and force one parent out of the child’s life. Instead, the family court laws should force both parents to equally parent when both parents are fit, because this is best for the children who have a right to equal access to both fit parents.
Unequal Parenting HARMS Equality and Opportunity for Women
I recently talked to Emma Johnson. She is a leader in the single mother arena. She is an advocate for equal parenting, and runs the Facebook page Moms for Shared Parenting. She makes a compelling argument that unequal parenting creates inequality for women and is a big reason why we have the pay gap between women and men. It makes complete sense. It is much harder for women to have a solid career and advance when the family courts still believe they belong in the home and should be the ones to pick the kids up every day from school and other time-consuming activities that come along with being the primary custodian and that make it harder for women to advance as easily as men. Equal parenting laws would not only help the kids, but it would also help create a more level playing field for women by sharing the responsibility and time with children equally between men and women so that both men and women are on a level playing field. In fact, Emma Johnson created a video which really highlights the benefits to women with equal parenting.
Equal Parenting is a NOT a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats Support it. Kentucky passed it in bipartisan fashion and Conflict has gone way down!
Equal Parenting is not about politics; it is what is best for kids. It is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It is an issue that transcends political parties. Both sides of the aisle know it is best for kids. We even now have undeniable facts from other states such as Kentucky which recently passed equal parenting laws with near unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans. So far, in not much more than a year after passing equal parenting laws in Kentucky, filings in backed up family courts went down 11 percent so far, and domestic violence is down as well! Parents don’t fight as much when the law does not give them an incentive to fight because the parents know they will just need to get along and share their children.
In addition to it being best for the children, Republicans and Democrats might have different reasons for agreeing with equal parenting that have to do with their core beliefs. Republicans might tend to support equal parenting because they lean more towards a traditional family setup of a kid having one mom and one dad raising them. Democrats might tend to support equal parenting because it is an equality issue for women and helps them advance more equally in the workforce as men. Regardless of what the reason is from either side of the aisle, the important thing is both sides overwhelmingly support it.
Not only is Equal Parenting best for kids, but it is a chance for Republicans and Democrats to come together and pass a bipartisan bill.
It is time that Texas passes equal parenting bills. The only opposition is the Texas Family Law Foundation, and they make their living due to people being in constant conflict. We must move past that special lobbying interest and do what is best for society and for children and even what is best for women. We must stop allowing courts to base their rulings overwhelmingly on sex and gender in violation of the Constitution and the rule of law. We must pass equal parenting laws.
HB 803 is the current Texas Equal Parenting bill for the 2021 Texas Legislative Session. Call your State Representative and State Senator now and ask them to support this bill, and sign on as a co-sponsor, and make sure it gets to the floor for a vote and is not killed in committee.