The time is now for shared parenting legislation in North Carolina. After years of advocating for equal shared parenting laws in my home state, Iâ€™m excited to share new, ground-breaking data that shows that the majority of North Carolinians support this effort. My law firm, AN|R Law: A Negotiated Resolution partnered with National Parents Organization (NPO) to commission an independent poll measuring support for shared parenting in North Carolina. While these types of polls have been conducted in other states, this is a first for North Carolina. I am confident that this will help incite change and transformation in our state legislature.
The results are trailblazing. According to this research, in the state of North Carolina, 96% of respondents believe it is in the child’s best interest to have as much time as possible with each parent in cases of separation or divorce. This number is staggering and it is the first-of-its-kind data gathering effort that we have for shared parenting support in our state. As a member of NPOâ€™s National Board of Directors, I am honored to support this initiative and effort to bring shared parenting laws to North Carolina. While I have worked over the years to share this information with legislators, this poll really changes the dynamic of information.
Majority of North Carolinians Support Shared Parenting
Our lawmakers need to hear what their constituents are asking for in terms of parenting rights and the importance of children spending time with both parents in instances of separation and divorce. The poll, conducted by Researchscape International in June 2022, discovered that:
- 96% of those in North Carolina believe it is in the child’s best interest … to have as much time as possible with each parent.
- 94% of North Carolinians expressed a commitment to vote their beliefs being “more likely to vote for a candidate who supports children spending equal or nearly equal time with each parent …when both parents are fit and willing to be parents.”
- 86% of those polled in North Carolina indicated they would support a change in North Carolina law that awards children as much time as possible with each parent after divorce or separation.
- 75% of North Carolinians surveyed believe that when there is conflict between parents, awarding sole custody to one parent increases conflict.
- 89% believe that North Carolina should promote shared parenting for all children with separated parents.
- 87% of those polled in North Carolina believe that both parents should have equal rights and responsibilities following divorce or separation.
What really fascinates me about this poll is that voters are willing to leave their political party or cross the political aisle to vote for a candidate that supports shared parenting legislation. Considering North Carolina is a true battleground state for voters, this further proves that voters care more about issues that impact them and their families than they care about a single candidate or political party. This speaks volumes on how much shared parenting truly means to the families in our state. The results of this poll also demonstrate that respondents understand the benefits of shared parenting and how it can have a positive impact on children. This information will serve as a powerful tool and resource to show the importance of shared parenting laws in North Carolina.
The Future of Shared Parenting in North Carolina
As a child of divorce, I canâ€™t even begin to imagine how my life would have differed if shared parenting was the norm in North Carolina when my parents divorced in the 1990s. Iâ€™ve shared my personal story many timesÂ here on my blog and in my book,Â The Cure for Divorce Culture. In fact,Â my childhoodÂ inspired me to pursue a career in collaborative family law so other families wouldnâ€™t have to go through the same type conflict that my family experienced. As a collaborative-trained attorney, I am committed to helping divorcing spouses put their children first and create co-parenting agreements that are equal and fair for both parents involved. Itâ€™s one of the many reasons why I am passionate about the work and efforts of NPO and other organizations that promote shared parenting.Â
NPO has identified North Carolina as a state with potential for shared parenting legislation and has begun efforts in promoting the benefits of these types of laws. The organization has deployed a billboard campaign in Raleigh that shares the importance of equal shared parenting. This billboard, located at 2506 North Raleigh Boulevard reaches an estimated 65,000 people per week. This effort provides much needed awareness of how current child custody laws are harming the state’s children. In addition, NPO will use the data from this new poll to arrange meetings with lawmakers who support this type of legislation. Iâ€™m looking forward to being part of these conversations and sharing my personal and professional insight. In the past, bills that focused on shared parenting have been drafted and submitted for consideration to the North Carolina General Assembly, but they havenâ€™t gained enough support to reach the floor for a vote. It is my hope that this new polling data paired with shared parenting research about our state will change that.
Actions Needed to Improve Shared Parenting Laws
Most recently, NPO released its 2022 Child Custody and Shared Parenting Report Card which ranked North Carolina as a low performing state in terms of child support and shared parenting. In this report, the state was graded on the degree to which it encourages or discourages shared parenting. In this report, North Carolina earned a â€œD-â€ in the ranking. While Iâ€™m not surprised by this grade, I am considerably disappointed.
This poor grade centered around North Carolinaâ€™s lack of child support guidelines and parenting time adjustment (PTA) policies. NPO noted that the state can improve on its child custody and shared parenting laws by addressing these current negatives:
- North Carolina’s PTA has an extraordinarily and unjustifiably high threshold of 123 days.
- North Carolina’s PTA has an extremely large discontinuity (or discontinuities), creating an extremely large cliff effect or multiple cliff effects.
- North Carolina’s PTA significantly overestimates the fixed, duplicated costs involved in shared parenting.
Despite the much-needed improvements, there were a couple positives noted in the report, including:
- North Carolina’s PTA appropriately takes into account the effect of the PTA on both parents’ households.
- North Carolina’s PTA appropriately results in no presumptive child support transfer payment when parental income and parenting time are both equal.
Unfortunately, North Carolina is no stranger to poor grades in this type of shared parenting research. In the 2019 Shared Parenting Report Card, North Carolina also received a â€œD-â€ for lack of shared parenting laws. According to N.C. GEN. STAT. Â§ 50-13.2, North Carolina statutes require courts to consider awarding joint custody if either parent requests it. Furthermore, courts may support their custody orders with findings of fact. While that is considered a positive, the state had several negatives that were not improved by the time the 2022 Report Card was released, including:
- North Carolina has no statutory preference for, or presumption of, shared parenting (joint legal custody and shared physical custody) for temporary or final orders.
- North Carolina statutes do not explicitly provide for shared parenting during temporary orders.
- North Carolina statutes do not require courts to consider â€œfriendly parentâ€ factors in awarding custody.
- North Carolina statute does not contain any policy statement or other language encouraging shared parenting.
North Carolina lawmakers need to take action and support shared parenting legislation. First and foremost, it is the right thing to do for the children in this state. Studies have proven time and time again that children are better off when both parents are involved in their lives in cases of separation and divorce. As a child of divorce and as a divorce attorney who has seen this first-hand in many family law cases, I know this to be true. Secondly, lawmakers need to realize that this is what their constituents want and are willing to support when they take to the ballot box. If current lawmakers want to stay in office, they need to pay attention to shared parenting laws. This poll proves that voters will change their political affiliations and voting habits to support a candidate that believes in shared parenting legislation.
If youâ€™d like to connect with me and learn more about what you can do to support our efforts to spread awareness about the benefits of shared parenting across North Carolina, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn with my handle @ANRLaw. You can also check out my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, and listen to my podcast, â€œDivorce, Healthy!â€ which is available on all major listening platforms.
About AN|R Law
You can learn more about working with AN|R Law: A Negotiated Resolution for divorce and other family law matters in North Carolina by reaching out to our office. You can 252-702-4376 or fill out this online contact form. We have four North Carolina locations in Raleigh, Greenville, Beaufort, and Wilmington to serve you and your family.
If youâ€™re interested in learning more about this topic or inviting me, Ashley-Nicole Russell, to speak at your next event or conference, Iâ€™d love to talk with you about the opportunity. I currently booking in-person and virtual speaking engagements for 2022 and 2023. Please reach out to my team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.