A new family law book published by Professor Merle Weiner argues for the adoption of a new legal status that would govern the relationship of parents who have a child in common. The status would apply regardless of whether the parents are married to each other or not. It would survive the demise of their romantic relationship. The status addresses the fact that marriage and parenting are often disconnected in modern society, leaving parents without a legal or social structure to guide the relationship.
Professor Weiner wrote the book because rates of non-marital childbirth and divorce render outdated the current approach to regulating the legal relationship of parents. In addition, the birth or adoption of a child has little significance for the parents' legal relationship to each other, despite the fact parenthood is a pivotal event and establishes a legal relationship between each parent and the child. Parents do not become a “mom” or a “dad” and a “parent-partner.” The book argues that parents should become both a “mom” or “dad” and a “parent-partner.”
The book describes how a new “parent-partner” status would benefit children, parents, and society. At a minimum, the particular legal obligations should shape parental behavior, just as any legal obligations do. More important, the status should create a new social role that would shape parental behavior. Parents should then treat each other consistent with the norms of the status, i.e., as supportive partners. The status should also deter uncommitted couples from having children (that is, couples who do not want to be or cannot be parent-partners). Most ambitiously, the status should help promote love between the parents and civic virtue among citizens.
Professor Weiner proposes five specific obligations to create the status. Most important for purposes of this newsletter is Weiner’s recommendation that parent-partners have an obligation not to abuse each other. The obligation would help set a floor of acceptable behavior between parent-partners. Weiner proposes three changes to civil protection order statutes and one change to the criminal law to make this obligation concrete and more effective.
In terms of the civil protection order statutes, she recommends the following: 1) that all parent-partners be eligible for a protection order, including when the couple is expecting a child; 2) that parent-partners be able to qualify for an order based upon psychological abuse; and 3) that the protection order be available even if the petitioner does not want a stay-away order. In terms of the criminal law, Weiner recommends making the parent-partnership relevant to the elements of the crime. This would emphasize the additional harm that accompanies the abuse of a parent-partner and highlight the special nature of the parties’ relationship. It would be better than an approach that penalizes child witnessing because it would eliminate the need for the child to be present.
These sorts of changes should be beneficial by themselves. They’d have the additional advantage of helping to create a new parent-partner status.
This book and more information about parent-partners are available at Professor Weiner’s website.
Also in this issue...
UO Domestic Violence Clinic Gets a New Home
Clinic Alumni Working With Survivors
Caroline Forell: The Best of the University of Oregon
Alumni Spotlight: Amy Hicksted
New Book by Professor Merle Weiner Discusses Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence Clinic Spotlight: Kathryn Moakley
Senate Bills 1571 and 1600 Will Help Survivors of Sexual Violence
How Survivor Advocates Can Avoid Burnout
Normal Jealousy or the Start of Abuse?