Kentucky Gov Matt Bevin and Matt Hale

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Matt Hale when the Shared Parenting Law was signed into effect.

Every family has its traditions and many, such as Easter or Cinco de Mayo, we share in common. But now, all families in Kentucky have a day to celebrate with pride. One year ago on April 26th, Kentucky became the first state in the country to officially declare that children deserve both parents by passing the Shared Parenting Law. To celebrate the anniversary, the state of Kentucky has just officially proclaimed April 26th as Shared Parenting Day.

April 26th is a special day because it is the day Governor Bevin signed the bill into law. But, it is even more special than that. For many years, Kentucky has acknowledged the day before as anything but a celebration. April 25th is the day we acknowledge one of the most painful things children and families suffer – parental alienation. Parental alienation is defined as “a child’s experience of being manipulated by one parent to turn against the other (targeted) parent and resist contact with him or her” (APA).

But one year ago, Kentucky showed the world a path to a better place, shared parenting. It is a place like a Glorious Park where parents do not alienate each other and harm the children. Instead, it is a park where parents take turns pushing their children on swings. Kentucky has shown the world that these horrible custody fights do not have to happen. Nobody wins in these fights, especially not the children. The law includes children’s safeguards so that unfit parents do not qualify.

The lawmakers knew the Shared Parenting law would be popular but were surprised by just how popular. “It received overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats,” said Speaker of the House and law sponsor David Osborne. In a rare show of unity, both parties tweeted out happily about the law’s passage. The polling reinforced Osborne’s point by showing people supported the law by a massive six to one factor.

The law was certainly popular with the lawmakers too. It passed the Senate unanimously 38-0 and the House 81-2. Only one of those two no votes, Linda Belcher, had a contested election. Although she won her last election by 37 points she was blown out by 20 points after her no vote on joint parenting. In fact, statewide Kentuckians voted powerfully for candidates who supported shared parenting.

Nationwide, Kentucky’s law has received praise. Governor Bevin said at the Shared Parenting Law’s ceremonial signing that he wanted “Kentucky to be the absolute best place for a child to grow up in the United States.” Since imitation is the ultimate flattery, Kentucky better get ready for a lot of flattery. State after state is now considering shared parenting. For instance, neighboring Missouri just had a similar bill pass its House and is expected to become law. The polling in other states such as Kansas and Ohio show that smart politicians will follow David Osborne’s example and pass shared parenting laws.

Your family can join the celebration. Reach out to a family member you have not seen in a while. Or, perhaps just enjoy your time with your family. But no matter what, be thankful that you are not an alienated parent. And, take pride that your state lets each parent see their children so they can push them on swings.

Kentucky resident Matt Hale started and the led the effort for the Shared Parenting Law’s passage. He can be reached at mhale@nationalparentsorganization.org.

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