Americans are discussing and debating the recent plan announced by the White House that addresses parents and children across the nation. The American Families Plan addresses several issues that affect children, parents, and families. While certainly controversial, it’s sparked a conversation about how both parents could have access to equal paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. 

As a divorce attorney who is passionate about shared parenting, I find this topic quite relevant because it supports a concept that I’ve been researching for years. If parents are treated equally at the beginning of a child’s life, they should also be treated equally as they parent in the years to come. That should stay true even if their marriage ends in divorce. The White House’s stance on paid parental leave recognizes that each parent should have the same amount of time with a child when they’re born or adopted. I believe that when a parent is treated equally with their parenting partner, there needs to be an expectation that each parent will also be treated equally in a co-parenting situation.

According to the American Families Plan fact sheet, the White House states that the plan is an investment in our nation’s children and our families. This would create a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that will bring America in line with competitor nations that offer paid leave programs. The program will allow people to manage their health and the health of their families.

Organizations around the world have been advocating for this concept for years. MenCare is a global fatherhood campaign that supports equal parenting in more than 50 countries across five continents. The group promotes men’s active, equitable, and nonviolent involvement as fathers and caregivers around the world. As part of its Parental Leave Platform, it produced this video, explaining the benefits of equal parenting.

“We believe that true equality between men and women will not be reached until men and boys take on 50 percent of the caregiving and domestic work. Equal leave policies for both parents – policies that are well-paid and non-transferable – have been gaining global attention in recent years, for good reason. They have proven to be some of the most effective policies in encouraging men’s caregiving and promoting greater equality in the household, workplace, and society as a whole, particularly when embedded within broader strategies to reduce and redistribute care work.” – MenCare

It’s also important to note that fathers aren’t the only one’s supporting equal parenting. Many mothers also want to see this standardized. The nonprofit organization MomsRising, with more than a million members, is a strong supporter of paid family leave for moms and dads. The group states on its website, “paid family and medical leave combats poverty, gives children a healthy start, and lowers the wage gap between women and men by providing structural support to balance work and family.” 

I think it’s important to leave politics out of this overall discussion and focus on what is best for the children of America. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, half of all marriages end in divorce and half of those marriages involve children. We have to work together to ensure that children affected by divorce aren’t going to face years of trauma and conflict because of how their parents chose to divorce and co-parent.

When it comes to divorce options, I believe that out-of-court settlement methods, such as mediation, collaborative law, and negotiation, are healthier ways to divorce. My firm, AN|R Law Offices, has locations throughout North Carolina in Greenville, Beaufort, and Raleigh. We focus on family law cases across the state and encourage families to divorce in a healthy manner. While each family is different and their situations are unique, my legal team is committed to doing what is best for the children. Majority of the time, that means having a parenting agreement that allows equal time with each parent. We are able to achieve this in the divorce cases that I settle because the type of law I practice prioritizes co-parenting. My advocacy has been recognized internationally through interviews with Forbes, the Washington Post, and various television news outlets. I’m also a member of the national board of directors for the National Parents Organization and have spoken across the country on the importance of shared parenting.

You might be wondering why I’m so passionate about this issue. Well, for me, it’s personal. I’m a child of divorce who wasn’t given the opportunity to have equal time with both of my parents. The litigation court system considered my mother as my primary parent and my father as my secondary parent. I spent most days with my mom and only some weekends and an occasional weekday with my dad. This impacted my relationship with both of them throughout my childhood, teenage years, and even now as an adult. That’s why my law firm practices alterative dispute resolution methods that keep divorcing parents and their children away from litigation and out of the courtroom. 

It is my strong belief that this type of law can help advocacy efforts for equal parenting, equal leave, and overall maternity and paternity leave across America. I’ve spent my legal career studying ways that mediation, negotiation, and collaborative family law can change the way our nation looks at divorce and creates parenting agreements for generations to come. I wrote about this and included extensive research in my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture. By spreading awareness and normalizing the fact that parents are equal all the way from the birth of a child to the ending of a marriage and the co-parenting agreement that follows, we can truly change the world. If the American Families Plan offers moms and dads equal time off and equal paid parental leave, this could create a trickle-down effect for other issues affecting parents and divorced parents. It’s wonderful that there are discussions around equality for parents, but we won’t make progress unless all parents are also seen equally, even as co-parents, throughout a child’s entire life. 

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