I often get e-mails from the Governor's office highlighting new legislation signed into law and other initiatives Cuomo is trying to push forth.
Today I decided to reply with the message below. I don't know that it will do much to spur action, but perhaps if more of us in New York reached out and pushed harder, we'll get some fairness for dads in this state. I will certainly keep beating the drum.
Dear Governor Cuomo:
I enjoy reading the periodic updates your office sends to me. I commend you for the outstanding job you've done as Governor of our great state, and I hope that over the next few years your national profile rises such that you are the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election. You'd have my support and my vote.
While so much has been accomplished in your short tenure--legalization of gay marriage, the tax cap, an overhauled teacher evaluation system, pension reform, etc.--I'm writing today to draw your attention to a bill--S 5206--that has languished for years in the Legislature, in one form or another, and I implore you to get involved in seeing to it that this bill is passed and signed into law.
Reforms made to New York's divorce laws in 2010 were a welcome and necessary first step in overhauling an archaic and poorly functioning matrimonial legal system, but they didn't go far enough. While legislators ensured that attorneys would be well taken care of by including a provision that the "monied spouse" will pay all attorney's fees, sadly often the most important part of the divorce equation--the children--were ignored.
S 5206 would require the presumption of a shared parenting arrangement in divorces where minor children are involved. As I indicated earlier, for years a few well meaning legislators have introduced legislation that would allow for a presumption of shared parenting, and each time the bill was dead on arrival. Most recently, S 5206 was put forth in 2011, and twice referred to the Children and Families committee (in May, 2011 and in January, 2012) where it has been seemingly left to die again.
Ideally, divorcing couples with children would always do the right thing and would agree to a parenting arrangement that honors the contributions of both parents and maintains strong bonds between the children and both parents. Sadly, this is too often not the case. Current law does not include the words "joint custody," and in the vast majority of cases, judges who have to make decisions regarding parenting plans favor the mother by granting sole custody 95% of the time while providing "< parenting time >" to fathers every other weekend with perhaps a mid-week "visit" for some lucky dads. S 5206 would change this by presuming a shared (and equal, or mostly equal) parenting arrangement, so that the animosity and fighting that often is part of parenting plan discussions doesn't occur and adversely affect the children. Of course there will be some cases where shared parenting is not the best thing for the children. In those cases, S 5206 would put the burden of proof in demonstrating that shared parenting isn't best for the children on the parent making that claim.
Governor, as a father yourself, surely you understand the important role you've played in your children's development. I would submit to you that both quality and quantity are important factors in maintaining strong bonds between children and their parents, and without quantity, quality is a challenge. I urge you--as a person who truly is interested in fundamental fairness--to advocate for the passage of S 5206 so that this can be yet another in a long list of accomplishments under your administration.
Thank you for your time and consideration.