Nuciforo tells county Fatherhood Coalition he supports bills allowing shared parenting
By Tony Dobrowolski Berkshire Eagle Staff
PITTSFIELD — State Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, told members of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition Saturday that he supports state legislation allowing shared parenting as an alternative to sole custody in child custody cases.
Speaking before a large crowd packed into a meeting room at Berkshire Medical Center, Nuciforo said two bills concerning shared parenting are currently under consideration by state legislators.
One bill contains a provision that asks for a “rebuttable presumption” that shared legal and physical custody in is in the child’s best interest, Nuciforo said.
“This is a bill that would require the mother and father to get together to plan how the kids should be raised,” he added.
Nuciforo said those in attendance who were in favor of shared parenting should petition their local legislators to keep the bills moving forward in the House and Senate.
‘Work to do’
“We know we’ve got some work to do to get a shared parenthood bill passed in Massachusetts,” Nuciforo said. “There is a risk in doing that. But the larger risk is doing nothing.
“If we don’t do anything, the problems identified today will continue to affect children for the next generation, the next generation and the generation after that.”
A total of 80 people, the majority of them men, many toting notepads, signed a sign-up sheet before the meeting started. But group organizers estimated the crowd to be closer to 100 people because many arrived after the meeting began.
Attire ranged from baseball caps and T-shirts to ties and sports jackets. At least four young children were in attendance. Parents ages ranged from young adults to senior citizens. In addition to Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition members, men from Northampton, Holyoke, Agawam and Connecticut were also in attendance.
Before Nuciforo spoke, Rinaldo Del Gallo of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition said shared parenting is “the single most important agenda item of the Fatherhood Coalition.
“Fathers are being torn from their children all across the courts of this commonwealth by the government,” said Del Gallo, who is an attorney. “This must end. Children need their fathers.”
Del Gallo said the Fatherhood Coalition, which originally formed in Lee, “is a group that seeks to foster the father/child relationship and promote gender equality in family law.
“We cherish the right to parent above any other right,” Del Gallo said. “It is the belief of the Fatherhood Coalition that this right — and I choose the word right carefully — is protected by our Constitution.
“Shared parenting protects the right of the child’s love and companionship for both parents,” Del Gallo said. “It also protects the rights of both parents. The fact that there is a competing claim for the same right, between the two parents, does not warrant the conclusion that a victor and vanquished is justified.”
During a question-and-answer session following Nuciforo’s brief remarks, Marie Markowitz of Berkshire Mediation Services said several parents her service deals with in divorce proceedings are in favor of shared parenting.
“I’m very interested in this bill,” Markowitz said. “I think it’s an option we should have.”
Mark Rosen of Connecticut asked Nuciforo when the shared parenting bills might become a priority for legislators.
“When you’re making substantive changes in the law there is a digestive period that goes on in the Legislature,” Nuciforo said. “You have to file these bills a couple of times because the members have to go back and look at them a little bit.
“This isn’t something where you can wave a magic wand and change it,” Nuciforo said. “It’s a long, slow process.”