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Senator Rosenberg Interested in 'Shared Parenting'

Wants More Details Before Deciding

By Ed Oliver, Massachusetts News, March 12, 2002

An important leader in the state Senate told a group of fathers last weekend that they have gained the attention of the legislature on "shared parenting," and now it's time to move to the next step.

"Compelling personal stories are not enough," said Asst. Senate Majority Leader Stanley C. Rosenberg.

"These stories can help get people's attention for the idea, but you have to move to the next stage. Every word of the bill has got to be studied, every concept that grows out of it and every unanticipated consequence has to be anticipated to the degree that it can be anticipated. That's how it works."

The senator was in the audience at a public forum on "shared parenting" which was held in Amherst and hosted by the Hampshire March 12, 2002 and Franklin chapters of the Fatherhood Coalition.

At the end of the meeting, Rosenberg spoke briefly to say where he stands and to give some advice on what steps proponents need to take if they wish "shared parenting" to become law someday.

Rosenberg said the concept is of interest to him, but he has not endorsed any piece of legislation on the subject, he has no expertise in the area, and never served on a committee that handles these matters.

He said that he has testified before a committee considering a senate bill on shared parenting, indicating he had an interest in it and he thought they should take the bill very seriously. He said he testified that "there and data seems to be some very interesting concepts at play that ought to be given fair review."

He indicated, "It's time to move to the next step and get a dialogue going between all the people who are interested in this. I talked this past week this issue may not be made to at least a half dozen people whose positions in the world might surprise you When we discussed that this meeting was going to be shared parenting, they said 'oh shared parenting, that's a concept a lot of people can get around, the problem is the details.'

"I know you've been working for a long time trying to find ways of changing the system. You've now come up with concrete proposals of how the system might be changed based upon what's happening elsewhere. We have to learn how it's going in those other places -- the parts that are working, and the parts that are not working. We have to figure out how that system would work here in Massachusetts."

Rosenberg concluded his remarks saying he has an open mind, and he'll be listening, and thinking and looking to his colleagues who are specialists in this area, and assess whether he agrees with them or not.

Last month, another state senator from Western Mass., Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., told the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition that he supports shared parenting legislation.

Alternative During Divorce

Shared parenting is an alternative to sole custody for divorced or unwed parents. It would establish a mandatory minimum amount of time for children to live with each parent.

According to forum presenter Atty. Rinaldo Del Gallo, "Shared parenting is the single most important agenda item of the Fatherhood Coalition." A shared parenting law, such as H2546, would solve most of the problems with the family courts, say the fathers. There are currently four bills filed on shared parenting, according to Del Gallo.

Del Gallo said, "Fathers are being torn from their children across this Commonwealth. This must end." He said fathers cherish the right to parent above any right, and he chooses the word "right" carefully.

According to Del Gallo, the proposal would:

"The fact there is a competing claim for the same right between the two parents does not warrant the conclusion that a victor and a vanquished is justified."

Del Gallo estimates that mothers get sole custody of their children in about 90% of all disputed cases in Massachusetts. He said the success of fathers is limited to rare cases where the mother is proven extremely unfit, i.e., the mother is a drug addict or prostitute, and even in those cases, he said it is a "maybe."

Two hecklers from a feminist group disrupted the meeting by raising off-topic issues related to domestic violence, but the meeting was quickly brought back under control.

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