How a Simple Change in Divorce Laws Could Revolutionize American Education

The debate about what will help children excel in school can seem endless. Despite increases in school resources across the country (and a focus on raising the standardized test results of disadvantaged children) children continue to perform poorly. But perhaps the necessary change to improve children’s success at school lies not in school, but in the home. According to an article in the Washington Examiner, 71 percent of high school dropouts are raised by single parents, but children who experience “shared parenting” after a divorce do much better in school.

Shared parenting is a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce – if both parents are fit and there has been no domestic violence. This stands in sharp contrast to the outdated traditions of most family courts, which assign sole physical custody to one parent, usually the mother, and just a small amount of “visitation” to the other parent.

The question, then, is how can shared parenting help young children as they develop?

A 2014 review of nearly 50 peer-reviewed research papers on post-divorce parenting found that almost every study demonstrated better results for children who had shared parenting after parental separation or divorce; the improved outcomes were reflected in many measures, including education. The results were endorsed by 110 experts around the world.

Yet, our family courts are ignoring these statistics. It’s striking that our family courts, according to the Census Bureau, award mothers sole physical custody more than 80 percent of the time. The other parent, usually the father, is seldom awarded enough parenting time to have a positive influence during the school week.

While taxpayers might cringe at the thought of further educational reform, it is possible that we could all see positive change in our schools if the court system were to adapt this more enlightened point of view when awarding custody post-divorce. Such a small improvement in the courts could result in immeasurable positive results in our schools, at no cost to taxpayers. Such a win-win situation should be seriously considered — especially since it is the education of our children that is at stake.

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