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Editorials:
In Yankton Press and Dakotan: October 27, 1999 - Written by Steve Mathis

Thank you Kathleen Parker for speaking the truth in your editorial, "Divorced Fathers Ready To Wage a Revolution".  I am a divorced parent who has had and strongly desires to continue having a close and loving relationship with my two children, yet I continue to experience the struggle of many non-custodial parents who are stripped of their full-time parenting roles and compelled to have "visitation" with their children.  The fact remains, children need BOTH parents for their physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.  Children have the right to shared parenting, equal access and opportunity with both parents, the right to be guided and nurtured by both parents, the right to have decisions made by the use of both parents' wisdom, judgement and experience.  Children do not forfeit these rights when the parents divorce.

Unfortunately, every year, a multitude of family members lose their homes, their children, their life savings, their jobs, their future income and their dignity fighting in our court system to win control of their children.  These assets end up being spent on mediators, assessors, mental health personnel, real estate agents and lawyers. Regardless of whether the Father wins or the Mother wins, the children are guaranteed to lose.  Often a custodial parent uses their advantage as the primary parent to alienate the children from the other parent to destroy the relationship between the children and the other parent.  The loving relationship that a child once shared with two parents is destroyed by one parent abusing their custodial control or seeking revenge on the other parent without any thought of what is in the best interest of the child.  It is clear, as we move into the year 2000 and in light of the breakdown of families in our world today,  that both parents should affirmatively assist and encourage each other's efforts to have a strong parenting role in their children's lives.  

It is my belief and the belief of a significant number of parents across the nation,  that shared parenting should be the law.  Shared parenting is in the best long- term interest of the child and equal shared parenting (joint physical custody) is more beneficial to children than joint legal custody or sole custody.  Shared parenting has many other benefits.  For example, it promotes true gender equality, significantly reduces conflict in court, eliminates the concept of "visitor" and "visitation",  reduces the incentive to litigate due to a shared parenting standard, reduces child access problems and reduces the abuse of the legal system.

Presumptive shared parenting is the law in several states.  These states have concluded that if both parents are fit and have the ability to rear their children,  joint legal custody and equal periods of physical placement are fundamental rights of each parent and child.  South Dakota has no such law and the courts do not appear to advocate for shared parenting in their guidelines or decisions.  I believe it is time for this to happen in the State of South Dakota.  Thus,  a revolution?  This makes intuitive and moral sense to me.  How about you?

If you would like to be a partner in establishing a South Dakota Coalition which believes that Children Need Both Parents in the aftermath of divorce, please contact me at (605) 665-3750.  Together, we can make a difference!


In Yankton Press and Dakotan: November 30, 1999 - Written by Steve Mathis

Thank you for the positive public response to my recent editorial, "Both Parents
Are Needed to Nurture Growing Child". Fairness and equity must be the
foundation of all families before, during and after a divorce. However, in 75
percent of divorces involving children, physical custody goes to the mother and
on average, the custodial mother spends 80% of the time with the children
compared to only 20% with the father. Fairness and Equity? Is this in the child's
best interest? Is it true that only mothers are capable of being the nurturer and
caregiver to their children?

There is no question that mothers have an important role in the development of
a child but what about the fathers. I believe the statistics speak for themselves.
Studies report that 85% of all children that exhibit behavior disorders, 71% of all
high school dropouts and 85% of all youths sitting in prisons come from
fatherless homes. This is not to say that all children in fatherless homes will end
up this way, however there appears to be a significant risk when fathers are not
present.

Unfortunately, some fathers (and mothers) abandon their families. Current
reports cite the most frequent reasons that fathers fade from their children's
lives is the interference of the custodial parent, lack of support and
encouragement of the father's involvement by the former spouse (a factor in
some states for a change in custody), and the failure of the legal and court
system to recognize, understand and respond to the importance to children of
being parented by BOTH parents.

Often access and visitation schedules are not sufficient and flexible enough to
allow a child's relationship with both parents to grow. For example, according to
the South Dakota Child Visitation Guidelines, the non-custodial parent (typically
the father) is permitted four overnights with their children per month and one or
two, 2-3 hour visits per week. Is this enough for a child's relationship to continue
to flourish and grow with his or her father? I suggest it is not, especially when
the father is a caring, loving, and involved parent.

It is clear, equal shared parenting between both the father and mother is the key
to a healthy child in the face of divorce and should be the law in the State of
South Dakota. Whether you are male or female, mother or father, custodial or
noncustodial parent and would like to be a partner in establishing a South
Dakota Coalition which believes that Children Need Both Parents Equally in the
aftermath of divorce, please contact me at (605) 665-3750. I believe this a
legacy we can leave our children and future generations.

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