The last 17 months have been nothing short of historic for the state of Kentucky and the topic of shared parenting. On April 26, 2018, Gov. Matt Bevin signed the nation's very first true shared parenting law, which provides children of divorce/separation a rebuttable presumption of joint custody and equal shared parenting time with both parents, given that both parents are fit and able caregivers. To celebrate and emphasize this amazing achievement, on April 26 of this year, Gov. Bevin issued a proclamation to establish the day as Shared Parenting Day in the state of Kentucky.
As momentum from the new law has swept across the state, we have learned that it's one of the most popular laws we have. A recent poll in Kentucky by National Parents Organization asked the question, "Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: A child would benefit from having equal time with both fit parents following divorce?" And the results were a staggering 84% answering "Yes."
In addition to its popularity, the new law has seen decreased conflict in family court since it went into effect. Family court filings are down 11% and domestic violence claims are down 445 cases.
This is all great news, because as a proud Kentuckian, I always hate hearing when our state is ranked last or near the bottom in any given statistical category. And it was no different back in 2014 when National Parents Organization released its Shared Parenting Report Card grades. Kentucky came in with a D- which was good for 48th best in the nation at that time.
Just like a student with a poor grade in school has the chance to study and improve, Kentucky has done just that in the area of shared parenting. There have been countless hours spent by Matt Hale and his team of volunteers, working as a voice for Kentucky's children that deserve to have both parents in their lives. We have vital research and proof set forth by Dr. Ryan Schroeder, previously the chair of the University of Louisville Sociology department, which scientifically and overwhelmingly shows the myriad benefits a child receives growing up with access to both parents. This includes a lesser chance to do drugs, and a higher chance to participate in positive activities such as sports. And last, but not least, the Kentucky legislature did its part as well. Lawmakers from the Louisville area, which include House Representatives Kevin Bratcher (R-District 29), Jason Nemes (R-District 33) and David Osborne (R-District 59), were all early supporters and sponsors of the bill. They each took the time to learn about shared parenting, hear our voices and complete the final step of this journey for Kentucky in making what was once just a dream into a reality with the nation's first shared parenting law.
And with all this hard work and success brings us to Kentucky's next historical shared parenting moment: National Parents Organization has released its latest Shared Parenting Report Cards grades for each state, and Kentucky is the first state to ever receive an A. This grade was the result of a study of the states' statutes concerning shared parenting. As I earlier analogized the grade to a student in school, it applies once again here. Kentucky has put in the work and earned this amazing jump from a D- to an A in leading the nation.
Even as Kentucky celebrates its highest grade, the work isn't done. Having a shared parenting law is paramount, and it's helped so many children across the Commonwealth, but there are many family court settings in Kentucky where the culture still needs to be changed. Getting the judges and lawyers to jump on board is still a work in progress in some areas. Transparency/oversight, false allegations and child support reform are just a few issues that need to be addressed on the heels of shared parenting.
So as we push forward, be proud of this moment. It's something the entire state should be celebrating. And let's also hope that our state will be the leader for other states. Many states in our region, including Ohio, West Virginia and Georgia, can look to us as an example. Oklahoma has even cited Kentucky as a "motivator" in its shared parenting reform efforts. While it's great to be on top, the biggest reason to celebrate is the day that all states have an A, and shared parenting is the norm versus the exception.
Matt Hancock is the Kentucky Chair for the National Parents Organization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.