The following is a letter from African American Civil Rights Leader Bill Owens, who marched with MLK Jr., who is now asking Representative Victoria Neave, Chairwoman of the JJFI Committee, to set HB 803 Equal Parenting bill for a hearing.
From the Desk of Bill and Deborah Owens
April 12, 2021
Rep. Victoria Neave
Texas House of Representatives
PO Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
Dear Chairwoman Neave,
We write to you today to ask you to help improve the lives of thousands of children in Texas by granting a hearing on bill HB803, the shared parenting bill.
Today, we are contacting you as parents and private citizens. However, in our public work for the Coalition of African American Pastors, we have seen the devastation that divorce, custody issues, and the lack of two involved parents have done to generations of children. It is an especially serious problem in the African American community, where far too many young Black children grow up in single parent homes without an active and involved father.
Currently, the law governing custody operates on the presumption that the mother should be the custodial parent. Too often, this approach deprives children of an involved father while putting far too much pressure on the mother to fill both parental roles.
In addition to being archaic, the current system effectively disadvantages minority and low income families. Litigating for shared custody is expensive, so minority and low income children are often stuck with the default solution, where the father is little more than a weekend visitor. HB803 would create a presumption in favor of shared parenting, except when one parent is unfit.
The social science demonstrates that children who grow up in single parent homes (usually fatherless) are at risk for higher levels of suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism, incarceration, behavioral problems, and teen pregnancy.
Please consider holding a hearing on HB803. This bill is a sensible first step towards ensuring a healthier, happier future for every family that goes through divorce.
Rev. Bill Owens and Dr. Deborah Owens
27120 Fulshear Bend Drive, Suite 900-181 ❍ Fulshear, TX 7744