A Response to an Opponent of North Dakota’s Measure 6

The following is a response to the opposition of Measure 6.  My responses are in italics.

Measure six poses threat to the children of North Dakota
Everyone has been talking about Measure 1, and they certainly should be. But there’s another measure on the ballot this Nov. that is just as important.

It’s called Measure 6. It claims it will create a presumption that each parent is a fit parent entitled to be awarded equal parental rights and responsibilities by a court unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

I wish people could realize right away what a bad idea this is, but there are some that actually think this bill is a good thing. Allow me to explain why I think they’re wrong.

Allow me to explain why this is a good thing and why you are wrong. Please also allow me to apply a tone to this that is perhaps a bit more critical and direct than my typical way of addressing issues. You see, I am very passionate about this issue. People like you, and those who share your mindset, have denied me and others like me one of our most basic rights as human beings: the right to our children.
For what it is worth, I am an upstanding citizen who has never been convicted of a crime. I hold a master’s degree in counseling and am committed to helping people live healthy and happy lives. I am also an active father and husband. In every way, I look good on paper. It is people, like me and my children, who have suffered most under the old system.

First of all, making an assumption that a parent is a fit parent on the sole basis that they have a kid is not a logical assumption to make.

So…It’s more logical to assume that they’re not fit? When did we start assuming the majority of parents are unfit? I would argue that the vast majority are “fit” parents.

How many stories have we heard about physical and sexual abuse, either done by or allowed by parents? Or how about parents that might not be legally unfit, but are just terrible parents in general?

I am curious as to how you define a terrible parent? Is it a parent that doesn’t spank their kids a terrible parent? Is a terrible parent one that imposes overly rigid boundaries on their children? I find that a lot of people that critique parents are not parents themselves. I would be the first to say that I am not a perfect parent. I am, however, trying my hardest and I love my children. If you are saying that we shouldn’t allow abusive parents to have shared parenting then we are absolutely in agreement.

Just because somebody has a kid does not mean they should. There are plenty of terrible parents out there, and most times we don’t find out about it until the abuse has been going on for years and years, if we ever find out at all.

So, we start by assuming all parents are abusive: male and female. We also assume that children are not entitled to the love of both parents. Better to protect them from imagined harms than to assume that children should have love and care from both parents. You are requiring a standard in law that is applied in no other arena: guilty until proven innocent

That right there is my main problem with this measure. It forces the parents who actually do have concern for their children to be on the defensive. Now, during a custody battle, they may have to go through a lengthy and painful process to prove that the other parent is unfit, while the other parent, even if they are a terrible parent, automatically gets legal protection until it is clearly and convincingly proved otherwise.

Again, you are making a case that people should not have equal protection under the law. You are making the case that people should be excluded from their children’s lives even if any allegations of “unfitness” are unfounded. Here is where I take parents out of the equation, since the opposition are often only concerned about the wishes of one parent. What about the child? Don’t they deserve equal access and care? Isn’t a child’s best resource their parents? You’re making a case for limiting a child’s first and most important resource: their parents.

The supporters of this measure claim there are plenty of good parents out there whom the system occasionally fails, and while this is true, it is nothing short of pure idiocy to simply assume from the beginning that all parents are good parents.

This law does not assume are all good parents. It offers a starting point. Should we assume that one is a good parent and one is a bad parent? That is the “idiocy” that represents our current system. Nobody is making a case that all people are great parents; this is a case of where we use the common standard of law that both are equal until proven guilty. Further, the child is entitled to all the care, love and full support of both parents.
One of the arguments in favor says that mothers tend to be favored by the courts, and the fathers often tend to be cut out of the picture entirely. That may happen, but this measure is not the way to address the problem.
Um, “that may happen” 80 percent of the time.

This measure has the same problem as Measure 1 in that it is so poorly worded that it could have dire, unforseen consequences that the legislatures never considered.

Unforeseen consequences could be a consequence. For what it is worth though, all the research points to how there would be foreseen benefits: increased child care, greater engagement from estranged parents, increased child support and better outcomes for children. You are using unsubstantiated fear to rally opposition to the bill.

Another problem with this bill is that it shifts all the focus to the parents. However, the parents shouldn’t be the focus of this. The real focus should be the children.

This bill, unlike all of the legislation that has preceded it, focuses squarely on the children. This is a typical argument used by opponents of shared parenting. Shouldn’t children have the right to both parents? Shouldn’t there be a process for limiting the care that a child receives from both parents. This law is about maximizing parenting responsibility. A child’s greatest assets are their parents.
The real focus is on the children with this law. The focus before was on “winning” custody at the expense of a child’s relationship and support from both parents.

It claims to be defending children, supporters of it claim that cutting one of the parents out of their life is a bad thing, but I believe this is a bad assumption to make universally.

This law protects children against abusive parents. It also protects children against the “loss” of a parent.

Sometimes some parents need to be cut out, because they don’t deserve to have kids in the first place, sometimes it’s not actually feasible for both parents to have equal parenting simply because of location. Sometimes both parents shouldn’t have the same influence.

What child deserves to lose a parent? What parent deserves to lose a child in the absence of documented abuse? I once heard a doctor of psychology say that “most parents are just trying to do the best job with the gifts that they are given.” There is a diverse array of parenting styles. Psychology and social work haven’t developed a universal “right way” of parenting. One thing is for sure, kids love their parents. Mom and dad both have something to give. To deny a child the love and care of both parents is abusive. To make the assertion that parents don’t deserve a child because a person (you as the author) disagrees with the way that they parent in essence takes away all parent’s autonomy to parent. It prescribes a single way to parent. We have drawn lines on what is clearly bad parenting: abuse. However, should only parents who go to church every week, work 40 hours a week, have a child while married, or dress their kids in designer clothes be assigned the tile of “deserving” parents. Those are scary assertions.
This goes back to what constitutes legally unfit. Sure there is physical and emotional abuse (although given our court system’s track record with catching that in time, good luck proving that “clearly and convincingly” in court).
Punish all children and parents for the sins of the few. Here is an idea: have a screening for all prospective parents. Take the guess work out of it. Make children wards of the state until all parents can prove they are “deserving” of having children. Using anecdotal evidence of justifying the act of removing a parent of a child’s life is using fear to persuade people adopt this perspective.
But what about other less tangible negative effects?

The fact of the matter is that some parents should just not have children, even though they might not fit the legal definition of unfit.

Thank you for being our judge and jury. While you are at it, throw out the constitution and apply it to only people who are “fit.”
This bill is overly idealistic and impractical since it assumes that we live in a better world than we do.

Have you ever been to a school? Have you ever watched mothers and fathers drop their kids off? Have you ever watched a man coach little league or mother lead a troop of Girl Scouts? Did you even bother to look up the latest stats on parenting? All parents, not just mothers, spend more time with their children than they ever have. Parents, men and women, are more engaged in childcare than they ever have been in the history of our country.

Trust me, I would love to live in a world where we could just automatically assume that anyone with a kid was a good parent. You and I both know this is not the world we live in.

It is absolutely true that there are “bad” parents out there? However, most are “fit” or loving parents. You are making too many assumptions without evidence.

Consider Adrian Peterson, for example, a parent who beat a four year old to the point of drawing blood and isn’t even sorry about it. He’s certainly sorry that people are paying attention to it, but he thinks this is a normal thing to do.

Perhaps, you should read this law. I had made the assumption that you had. People convicted of abuse are not entitled to 50/50 rights. Children can be pulled out of these types of homes just like in families where parents are together.

In a world where people like that exist, are we honestly supposed to assume from the beginning that all parents are fit parents?

In a world where murderers exist, are we supposed to assume that all people don’t murder? In a world where crimes exist, are we supposed to assume that all people are not criminal? Of, course these things exist. We have laws to hold people accountable. However, we don’t put everybody in jail and then have them go through hoops to prove they are not criminals.
Admittedly, in the Adrian Peterson case, it would be easy to prove he was an unfit parent and should not ever be allowed near children. But sometimes it’s not that easy.

Should I cite Brittany Spears as an example of all mothers? You’re right: men everywhere should have to pay for Adrian Peterson and Charlie Sheen (I hope you are catching the sarcasm now because I am laying it on pretty thick). Your tone should be insulting to all men.  

When you go out to vote this November on Measure 1 (which I hope you do) you should also consider Measure 6 and the potential implications.

People should absolutely go out to vote in November. You should absolutely consider how children need and can benefit from both parents. Here are a final couple of questions to ponder: Would you want to have to prove to the courts that you are a fit parent?  Do you just assume 50/50 for parents and kids is where the courts should start? Would you want your child to “lose” you in a divorce? I hope that you will consider that both parents are important to their children.

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