In a time when there’s lots of legislation coming out of Columbia and Washington that threatens our rights and freedoms, it’s refreshing to find an exception. The exception I’m referring to is soon-to-be-proposed legislation in the SC General Assembly, which would give children a fighting chance at avoiding government-mandated single parent childhood. Here in South Carolina, our child custody laws haven’t been updated since the 1970’s, and they leave thousands of children without any sort of balance between their parents in child custody cases. This has tremendous ramifications for our culture and economy, as it further weakens the fabric of the family that is the foundation of freedom.
That’s why I’m proud to announce my wholehearted support of shared parenting legislation in South Carolina, which would pave the way for children to have a stable childhood even if their parents aren’t together. This common sense legislation would simultaneously hold parents responsible for the financial needs of their children, while protecting the rights of parents who are fighting to be part of their children’s lives. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that the majority of child custody cases in our state result in children being largely removed from one parent, usually the father, and placed almost exclusively with the other parent, often the mother. As a result, we have a fatherlessness crisis in this state and country, and I fear that too much of it is the result of bad policy, not just bad parenting.
As with too many issues in our state government, outdated laws that were crafted to coddle special interests have created a custody nightmare in an age of failing families. As the divorce rate has skyrocketed, and now stands at above 50%, children increasingly find themselves without the presence of one of their parents. The tragedy of these statistics is underscored by the fact that our legal system still treats custody disputes as a rare and relatively painless process. This simply doesn’t match the present reality of our culture. Though I strongly favor rolling back no-fault divorce laws that make divorce as easy as easing out of a lease agreement, I believe a change to custody laws is imperative. Until our code of laws and cultural conditions slow the rate of divorce, we must protect children from legally induced single parent childhood. That’s exactly what a bill in the SC Senate will seek to address this session.
Under the proposed changes to child custody law, parents would have a more equitable financial obligation to their children (based on the respective income of each parent), as well as equal input on their children’s lives from education to religious beliefs. This is a necessary first step toward arresting the amputation of one parent from the life of an impressionable child, which has severe sociological and psychological side effects. These side effects lead to seriously impaired citizens, once these scarred children reach adulthood. This hurts the whole of society. For the good of South Carolina’s children, its families, and its future, I’d urge passage of shared parenting legislation this session through the South Carolina General Assembly.
In addition to these common sense changes with regard to parental involvement from a financial and values standpoint, the most important piece of the proposed legislation would amend South Carolina family law to ensure that, with the exception of demonstrable evidence of abuse and wrongdoing, parents share equal physical custody of their children. This is a critical component of any comprehensive change in child custody, as physical presence has a tremendous impact on the psychological development of a child. Child psychology expert Dr. Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University pointed out recently on my radio program that 35 out of 36 studies over the past several decades have indicated that children who spend at least 35% of the time with each parent (much improved over the average of four days a month non-custodial parents currently spend with their children in our state) are better adjusted emotionally, mentally and socially.
Positive change for children is possible this legislative session, if the SC Senate and House pass comprehensive child custody reform.
I’d urge all South Carolinians who care about a strong culture and, as a result, a strong economy, to call their state senators and house members and urge them to support comprehensive child custody reform in our state. The future of our great state is on the line, as children will one day be the citizens responsible for her institutions. That’s why it’s critical that we exercise the good sense to do what is right by the next generation