Photo: Emily Metcalf
Photo: Emily Metcalf
Photo: Emily Metcalf

BY CHRIS LETHEM – The Parental Parity Bill, HB 2163, is an important piece of legislation when it comes to the securing of our rights and the welfare of our children. It is a bill that reflects the changing nature of families and the important and unique roles that both parents play in our children’s lives.

This bill ensures that where the parents are able to act in the best interest of their children, both are assured a continued, meaningful role in their children’s lives without the need to lawyer up and have an unnecessary, expensive and damaging custody battle. If this legislation passes, parents can spend their resources on their children instead of attorneys.

This bill is about optimizing the parenting opportunity of both parents as opposed to the current “Winner Take All Approach” that has been the status quo for the last several decades – an approach that leaves a path of ill will and persistent hostility that sometimes lasts for decades and damages all the parties involved.

Yes, there are some concerns with the second section of the bill regarding property division, but those issues can be resolved during the next legislative session, and we ask the Governor to please pass this bill as is, with the understanding that legislation will be introduced to clean up the concerns that many attorneys have voiced over the property division section of this bill.

The parental parity language preserves our role in our children’s lives and it ensures that optimizing parenting time is the primary consideration.

We know that children raised by both parents do far better in every measurable aspect of their development. When compared to children who spend significant time with both parents, teenagers in single parent households are significantly more likely to become pregnant or abuse substances.

When attorneys attended law school, what classes did they take in the areas of Family Dynamics or Child Development? They didn’t. It wasn’t part of the curriculum. Yet, we have put these people in charge of making decision about the best interest of our children.

They are no more qualified to make these decisions than they are qualified to fly the space shuttle. It’s time to empower families and parents. When parents are capable of collaborating and working together in their children’s best interest, this leads to far better outcomes. Moving away from the adversarial model promotes this kind of relationship with parents after they have divorced.

Parenting is how we pass on our values, our traditions and important traits such excellence, self-esteem, acceptance and the power of reconciliation.

 Chris Lethem is a member of the National Parents Organization of Hawaii

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