Put children first in West Virginia

Every other Sunday night and one night a week, I come home to an empty house. Hours before, it was the site of a 2 year old using princess nail polish on her Dad. It housed the laughter that ensued from a Disney themed bubble machine dance party. It echoed with the sound of laughter from the gymnastics involved in “the floor is lava” in the living room and echoed with the sound of enjoyment as we ate popsicles while watching cartoons.

I now sit in the quiet as a mix of both joy and sadness as I remember all the fantastic memories that we had during the time, but also sadness because she is no longer here.

The court assigned my infant daughter’s time with each parent based on an understanding of “that’s the way it’s always been done.” It decided that Dad was a minor part of her life based on my having to work full time. Someone who has never talked to me outside of a formal setting of a courtroom, never watched me interact with my daughter, never even met my daughter, took 3 hours of testimony about the disillusion of my marriage to determine that there was no reason to break a time honored tradition of the West Virginia Family Court system and that my daughter should receive the “standard” custody arrangement with her father, every other weekend and one night a week.

This “standard” isn’t backed by science, isn’t backed by specific findings, it isn’t even backed by most family courts in the United States. It’s just based on a “tradition” of the West Virginia Courts that’s rooted in a misogynistic, debunked social science theory from 1951 that men shouldn’t raise children.

We need to bring the laws in West Virginia into the modern era with the understanding that children deserve both parents equally. Modern social science theory has studied and understood the importance of shared custody. Children in Joint Custody situations perform better in school, have lower incidence of depression, fewer overall emotional issues, and are better suited for the rigors of life. Slowly, other states have begun to adapt to the new understanding of how to best protect children in divorce. Sadly, West Virginia continues to lag significantly behind this modernization and the ones that pay the price are our children.

The current system is broken. Our children receive the most pain courtesy of this neglect. The time is now to change the “way it’s always been.” The time is now to start putting our children first; to understand that children need both parents in their lives if the parents are able and willing. Until this is changed, the children will be the ones who are hurt the most.

We need all those who are willing to contact their legislators and let them know that it’s time to raise our children above the conflict of divorce. It’s time to finally put our children first as they are the future of West Virginia and of this world. Please join West Virginians for Shared Parenting on Facebook for more information.


Jonathan “Jeb” Pinkerton


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