Over the years, there has been little to no information collected about one of America’s biggest issues facing its families, companies, and communities. That is… until now.

A brand-new, groundbreaking study is being released that addresses the impact that inequality in the United States Family Court System has on corporations. This is the most comprehensive research project of its kind that observes the effects that shared parenting and the court system has on not only families, but also corporations and communities. I first published the historical data around the evolution of divorce’s impact on families in America and the concept that corporations and business are directly affected in my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, calling for a study to prove the hypothesis. This study shows what my Collaborative colleagues and those associated with the system have known to be true. In speaking at human resources events to spread awareness of this issue and help businesses become the saving grace of the negative effects of divorce litigation on its employees, parents, and children, these businesses have been very interested in the topic due to the costs and time away from work the employees are experiencing. Additionally, subpoenas are causing taxing issues for companies to produce massive amounts of documents and testimony under these duress cases. The study has been long awaited by the transformers and disrupters of the litigation divorce industry who will use this information to promote reform to settlement and collaborative efforts insulating families from the warlike mentality of litigation. It is important to remember this current divorce industry is tolling at around $50 billion a year, according to Divorce Corp. This number is taxed directly on the citizens of America and is currently destroying young lives in the mix.

This new, pioneering project is being researched by Casey Sowers, a doctoral candidate in business administration at Florida International University. He’s also the executive director of The Fathers’ Rights Movement where he advocates for fathers facing complexities in their fight for equal shared parenting.

“With the shared parenting community and family court systems, people often ask where is the data showing that this is impacting families. As professionals in the field, we know it’s there so I’m going to collect that data and analyze it for this study,” said Sowers.

His mission is also personal as he’s a single father of two. He has one daughter who he’s raised on his own since she was born. He later had another daughter during a relationship and fought for 50/50 custody when he and her mother separated. 

“When we separated, I only had one half of a percent of access to my younger child, even though she only lived two miles away. Just to get equal parenting access to my child, it took two and a half years,” admitted Sowers. “For me as a father, I see that as my duty to endure anything for the best interest of my child. I do not want her to go a single day thinking that her father did not love her.” 

His story is unique and a true example of what power and control the court system has over allowing children to see both of their parents when they are separated or divorced. This proves the need for this type of study that he is now conducting. As a divorce culture expert, author, and collaborative family law attorney, I’m honored to be one of the first people to view this incredible research study. The study will examine how the family court system plays a role in the Conservation of Resources theory and Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model. While these theories typically consider working conditions and how that impacts employees, Sowers’ study examines how the family issues of employees impact their working conditions and their employers. 

“Conservation of Resources usually studies the impact the stress of work and the impact it has on family life, such as creating family conflict,” said Sowers. “However, I’m reversing that. I want to see what impact family issues have on the workplace.”

More than 6,700 people answered questions about their experience with the family court system, custody disputes, fees and costs associated with family law issues, co-parenting arrangements, and court orders. Then, respondents were asked about the emotional stressors that played a role in their custody dispute such as concentration, sleep habits, socialization, conflict, hope and happiness, emotional reception, decision-making, and stress management. As a way to measure job performance during a custody dispute, respondents were asked questions in comparison to how their work performance was prior to their custody dispute. The last several questions in the survey addressed topics like productivity, leadership, collaboration, and communication in the workplace. The research is still being analyzed; however, Sowers shared some early findings with me. This includes data that supports child custody cases can result in loss of sleep, difficulty concentrating, and increased feeling of strain for parents. In addition, the early research finds a connection between the family court system and the impact on a parents’ productivity as an employee at work. This includes:

  • 75.89% of respondents admit that the quantity of their work during their custody dispute, at least sometimes, was less than what it should have been
  • 32.21% of respondents say that the quantity of the work they were able to complete during their custody dispute was worse or much worse
  • 22.94% of respondents say that the quality of their work during their custody dispute was poor or insufficient
  • 34.27% of respondents admitted that their job performance was worse or much worse during their custody dispute than before the custody dispute

“I know from personal experience, when I was at work and going through my custody dispute, I was distracted. I was thinking about emailing my attorney, making phone calls, and strategizing for my custody dispute more than thinking about my actual work,” admitted Sowers. “Thus, my productivity suffered. That created workplace conflict and produced additional stress. I lost sleep, creativity, productivity, and focus because of my custody battle.” 

In addition to gathering and analyzing this research, Sowers is also able to evaluate data on a state-by-state basis. Similar to the Shared Parenting Report Card, published every few years by the National Parents Organization, this study examines the performance of individual states. For instance, a state like Kentucky, which has highly rated shared parenting laws, will likely see better employee performance. That can be expected because 50/50 shared custody of children is standard in Kentucky and is recognized by the court system. This means that, in general, parents experiencing the child custody process aren’t dealing with a contentious court system that has them fighting for shared custody with their ex-partner. Other states, including Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, are making progress when it comes to passing shared parenting legislation. I can imagine that these states will also perform better in this study compared to states that have received low grades in the NPO Shared Parenting Report Card, like Rhode Island and New York. Both of these states received an ‘F’ grade in the 2019 report.

“While I have not finished the analysis, upon first glance, every single metric in the responses from Arizona show that there was less of an impact on mental and emotional response and less of an impact on job performance. This correlates well since Arizona received an ‘A-’ grade in the most recent NPO report card, as opposed to New York,” said Sowers.

Sowers is currently putting together the initial findings which establish the connection between the family court system and the inequalities in state laws, which then impact the workplace. He expects to analyze the data for the next two to five years and continue releasing more findings during that timeframe.

“This study is for a purpose. My thought process is that if we get corporations on board, then they’ll see the direct impact the family court system has on workplaces including the reduced productivity and the reduced ability for collaborative teamwork. They’ll want to fund lobbyists to advocate for legislation that would prevent this. They’ll save more money because fewer people will miss work and they’ll be more proficient and happier employees,” said Sowers. “In addition, people will sleep better and they’ll come to work less distracted. For instance, if an employee couldn’t sleep the night before due to family conflict and stress over child custody, they’re more prone to a worksite injury if they’re using heavy machinery.”

Sowers goes on to add that if he can prove the inequalities in the family court system and show the link they have to corporations losing money, it will create a value proposition. Once that’s established, the corporations will have a greater interest to get involved and start putting their lobbying dollars toward people that are going to support equal shared parenting. 

“Shared parenting isn’t just about the access for a mother or father. It is gender equality which could be and should be considered a human rights issue,” added Sowers.

I’ve spent most of my professional career supporting data collection for these topics on how the divorce experience of an employee can impact corporations around the world. I’ve spoken at conferences across America to address how the traditional litigation divorce process has wide-ranging and negative effects on the parents involved. This doesn’t just impact parents in a personal way, but also a professional way. As a way to reduce these negative effects, it’s important that companies recognize how litigated divorce and child custody battles take a toll on their employees. 

“My research has found that there is an estimated 88 million people who have gone through a custody dispute which is a significant impact in the United States workforce,” said Sowers.

It’s time that corporations realize the toll that child custody cases are having on their employees. Because of the inequality in the United States Family Court System, corporations are losing money by experiencing a decrease in employee productivity. In addition, their employees are experiencing emotional hardship and mental health issues.  We need to use this groundbreaking data and information collected by Sowers to make a positive change in America and in our workplaces. Through generating awareness with companies nationwide, they can join our fight. States across America need to pass shared parenting legislation so children can be healthier and happier with both parents in their lives and the nation’s workforce can experience productivity and achieve success.

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