Author Archives: sdkidsright

It’s Time To Stand Up Against Unfair Treatment: No Indians Or Dogs Allowed

From D.J., a grandmother:

I would like to share with you a story. One that was told to me by my mother, one that I have never forgotten. My dad was white and my mother was Native American. Before they were married, when they would go on a date, my mother would tell of times that she was not allowed in certain businesses.

Why you might ask. Some businesses back then had signs on their doors that would read…NO INDIANS OR DOGS ALLOWED. Therefore, my Dad would go in alone, while my Mom was forced to stay outside. Hurtful and sad to my Mom? Yes. But that’s not the reason I share this story with you. I share this story because I find strength in knowing that somewhere along the line; someone must have stood up as a group, like the Shared Parenting Supporters, and were successful in changing the laws, so that those signs could no longer exist. As times change, so must the laws.

For the last several years I have watched while my grandchildren are pulled away from their Daddy every two weeks and watch them cry as they hold out their arms to him as they leave. And I have watched my son sit at my kitchen table and cry like a baby after they have gone. Those of you that have children know that your children are your children, no matter how old they are. And when your children hurt, you hurt. Despite the thousands of dollars he has spent in attorney fees, he still has limited time with his children and they with him. He is denied phone calls and is only allowed to talk to them for a few minutes twice a week within a one hour time frame. The children are sent to their rooms if they ask to call their Dad and are punished if they cry when he takes them back to the custodial parent. My granddaughter tells me she wishes she could see her guidance counselor everyday because she says every day she is sad. The same granddaughter shares with me that she has nightmares about her Mom (the custodial parent) chasing her and her friend with a knife! How many five year old girls dream such dreams about their Mom? The court says they are doing what is in the best interest of the children. I beg to disagree. I write this to you today as a proud Native American Mother, Aunt and most importantly Grandmother… because my children and my grandchildren need me to. I stand proud with my son as he struggles to change the custody laws and because the children of North Dakota need me to tell my story.

There are families in your State, North Dakotan’s, father’s mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and yes, children, that have had something that belongs to them taken away…a parent and an entire side of their family, and are hurting because of our outdated custody laws.

It is time for change. I am here today to ask the voters of North Dakota to Please support Measure 6…for the children!

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#voteyeson6 #northdakota

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On life, divorce, custody and Measure 6.

Conversations With a Cowboy

I’ve been trying to figure out what, if anything, I can write that might make a difference in the war being waged right now in North Dakota over the upcoming ballot measure on Shared Parenting. I don’t know that this is it. But it’s the first of several blogs I’ll probably post this week on the topic, because watching and reading some of the material that’s being perpetuated on the issue by opponents of shared parenting reform, is terribly sad and frustrating. And part of our daily conversations right now. And I can’t sit idle and watch anymore.

We’ve been following Measure 6 closely, as there is still a long way to go in shared parenting reform in most, if not all states. It has countless others across the nation watching as well as the discussion unfolds in North Dakota. Why?

Measure 6 really has the chance to do some things right. And…

View original post 1,048 more words

How the North Dakota Divorce Industry Holds Children For Ransom

In the current system in North Dakota, if you do not have the financial means to hire attorneys to fight for more parenting time, or simply enforce your current order, you and your child(ren) have little to no relationship. There is an unwritten presumption, one parent will be minimized and often, it’s the parent without or simply runs out of the necessary financial resources. And this is how the North Dakota Divorce Industry holds children for ransom from good parents.

This email comes from North Dakota father who supports Measure 6 and just a few of the reasons why. He unfortunately, does not feel comfortable sharing his name out of fear his coming forward will affect what little time he and his son have together. And if you’ll read on, you’ll understand why. His story is not uncommon.

The details may be different for others, but the theme is all the same:

I’m not sure where to start, but talking about this gives me a great deal of anxiety, in no way do I want this to come back to my son. I am afraid of retaliation from his mom as she is extremely vindictive towards me with little consideration towards my boy. But I think sharing my story might help someone in the future.

When she was a few months pregnant we learned that he was going to be born with health complications. I won’t get into the details but he spent a few months in a children’s hospital. He’s had a few surgeries and blood transfusions and fortunately, he is doing great now. She and I sadly just could not make things work and we actually separated before he was even born. She was working as a nurse in a clinic when he was finally healthy and strong enough to come home. But at night and on the weekends, my parents or I would have him because she would be out partying. I’m not saying this to somehow make her look bad when things were really fine. Things weren’t. Our son wasn’t a whole lot more than a year old when she called me at work one day and informed me that she was going to treatment for a substance addiction.

I 100% supported her as I wanted my son to have 2 healthy parents. But over time, I learned she had an addiction to pain meds and had been abusing her role as a nurse. Her nursing license was revoked. She was evicted from her apartment and and while the investigation was going on in regard to this, she asked me to say that I could not handle raising our child should the State’s Attorney General contact me in regard to her role as a mother.

She moved in with her parents to try and recover and in the meantime, proceeded to do everything possible to make me look like a dead beat dad. I am a good dad. I love my son. And until this point, we (my extended family and I) have been our son’s primary caregivers and most stable family unit. But she wouldn’t let me see him (and I had no recourse but to take her to court on this). When I finally did, my son asked me why I was mad at him.

It wasn’t long before her attorney presented me with a stipulation for a custody agreement that I did not agree with so I did not sign it. I could not afford an attorney at the time so her attorney sent the stipulation to the court minus even more time than what was originally offered. The judge signed it as a default. I have since, almost been completely shut out of his life. When I try to work with her to see him, she belittles and harasses me. I have saved messages, emails that show she does nothing but put our son in the middle and uses him as a pawn to punish me for who knows what. I’ve worked with an attorney, it’s gotten me nowhere. I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time before she completely takes him. I get one weekend a month, depending on whether or not she’s mad at me. But most of the time, it’s just one weekend. If I don’t pony up for another court battle and commit to more legal fees, it’s all I’ll ever get as far as I can tell. And there’s no recourse for her, should she choose to not let me see my son, the son I helped see through a very dark time in her life.

I am a great dad, I have a good steady job and a clean kid friendly house for him to come and enjoy. But it’s always empty without him. And I know, based on what he says when we are together, a piece of him is empty without me, too.

The fact is measure 6 will help situations like his. The children raised in these situations are essentially the ones who lose in North Dakota. After all when one parent wins, kids lose.

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Why the “Best Interest of the Child” Standard Actually Fails Children

As the conversation escalates in North Dakota over Measure 6 and across the nation about what truly is in the “best interest of the child” when it comes to divorce or separation and custody matters, can we all step back a moment and truly look at what experts agree in this day and age, is in the best interest of our children?

Every state preaches ‘best interest’ but there is nothing concrete about it – anywhere our family court system. Every state right now has their own definition. Every judge brings to the table their own bias. And every family, their own set of issues, battles and concerns.

While possibly well intentioned decades ago when first established, current best interest standards, custody rulings and determining factors of who should be awarded custody are at the very least out-of-date if not totally ignorant of the changing roles in society, not to mention the past couple decades of current social science research findings on what truly is in the best interest of the child.

Reform is needed. And below are just a few of the reasons states should stay out of the decision making between fit, willing and able parents.

1) Most states current ‘best interest of the child’ factors and rulings become an either/or situation for kids. Either you go with mom, or you go with dad. The other parent is instantly minimized and marginalized regardless of their roles prior to any family split. An example; two parents are both wanting, willing, able and capable of raising and co-parenting their children. Out of 13 factors a judge looks at to determine what might be in a child’s ‘best interest’ – one parent is perceived to have a slight edge over the other in one simple factor. Just one out of the 13. That parent essentially ‘wins.’ Meaning, they are awarded primary placement, leaving the other parent more often than not, minimized both in parenting time and decision making.

2) In states where shared parenting isn’t encouraged or isn’t mandated be considered as best possible, the door is wide open for judicial bias. And you may be shaking your head and listening to attorneys and judges say this doesn’t happen, but is virtually impossible for this not to occur. Say one parent wishes to home school their child. One judge may believe this is far superior to public education, this parent would most likely win custody of the children due to the “bias” of that particular judge. Conversely if the same case was heard in a different court, where the presiding judge believed the opposite to be true as far as schooling was concerned, the ruling would most likely be entirely different. Each of the ‘best interest’ factors are ensnared with countless examples of where these same types of biases to come into play. No mandate to at least consider shared parenting as best possible between two fit and willing parents, leads to a very haphazard process and attorneys telling their clients they do not know what will happen in court, which in turn, drives ongoing, expensive and damaging to the kids as much as anyone, litigation.

3) Judges who make family court rulings are most often trained in the ‘best interest’ factors by their own State Bar Associations. Check your own state’s records to see how often any of them have ever voluntarily come out in support of a shared parenting measure that has been brought forward. Hand picked research showing its best to minimize one parent is what is most often perpetuated at a time current research shows in fact, The more shared parenting that is awarded – as close to 50/50 as possible with two fit parents – litigation is significantly reduced.

4) Judges most often making these ‘best interest’ rulings are lawyers, trained in law, not in psychology, family dynamics or taught how to recognize physical or emotional abuse. How often do you think they’re following up in the home to see how well the kids are doing?

Edward Kruk in his landmark book, ” The Equal Parenting Presumption: Social Justice in the Legal Determination of Parenting After Divorce writes:

The high potential of judicial bias in sole-custody-oriented parenting after divorce disputes results from the fact that judges are not trained in the complexities of child development and family dynamics (Woodhouse 1999).

5) No one tells married parents that one of them is more important than the other, how to raise their children or what is in their child’s best interest, unless there is obvious ill-will or wrongdoing. So, why is it when a family chooses to separate does one most often get told to sign in and wear the visitor badge?

Fred Silberberg writes in 2012 in Equal Custody Between Parents Should Be The Legal Norm:

The fact is, we don’t license parents in the country. We let things take their course naturally and people have children whether they are good parents or not. It is not until the parents can’t get along any further that someone is now called upon to determine whether it is in the children’s “best interest” to spend time in the primary care of one parent or another, or whether that arrangement should involve an equal timeshare.

6) Current US Census Statistics claim 82.2% of all custodial parents are mothers. The best interest standard, you could then assume, is a way for the Courts to perpetuate the former tender years doctrine. The tender years doctrine simply automatically grants custody to mothers in the event of divorce or separation of parents. Most tender years doctrines were repealed in the 1970’s and replaced with the “best interest of the child” standard. But it appears by the statistics that the tender years doctrine is alive and well through the best interest standard by way of judicial discretion and bias. Does this reflect parenting roles in most modern day homes? Mothers increasingly work and work outside the home. Fathers are increasingly staying home and involved in every aspect of parenting including changing diapers as much as they are making sure the diapers are paid for.

Here’s Edward Kruk on that subject:
“For example, current data indicate that judges do not fine-tune their decisions to parenting patterns that existed before divorce, but rather base their decisions on gender, continuing to use a gender-based stereotype of mothers as providing superior “tender years” care (Millar 2010; Kruk 2008).”

The tender years doctrine (as well as the current statistics) is gender biased, sexist and anything but in the true ‘best interest of children’.

7) The Supreme Court in Troxel v Granville proclaims “fit parents act in their child’s best interest.” Essentially, the court is stating fit parents know what is best for their children, not the court. The fact that states impose their version of the best interest is a direct violation of a parents civil right to parent their child.

8) In most states there is NO PARENTING TIME RECOMMENDATION FOR FIT PARENTS within the best interest of the child factors. With the exception of a few states (Arizona, Wisconsin, Arkansas) no states have tied this very important (the most important) factor into a statute. When maximized parenting time has been proven in all research to be in the ‘best interest of the child’ in most cases why haven’t more states defined this? State Bar Associations have fought fiercely to keep a defined amount of parenting time out of the best interest factors in nearly every state. One could assume attorneys have a financial interest in not maximizing parenting time? Re-litigating cases has been shown in research to be reduced in shared and equal custody situations. A Comparison of Maternal, Paternal, and Joint Custody shows that relitigation as well as conflict was reduced in shared custody arrangements over time when compared to sole custody arrangements.

Equal or maximized parenting time is in “the best interest of child” as long as parents are fit. You cannot truly have the best interest of the child in mind and at heart without this!!!!!

Placing the “best interest” factors after parental fitness will provide for the true “best interest of the child”. Once fitness has been shown and equal parenting is presumed but allowance made for rebuttal, it will provide what children need most – maximum contact with the two most influential people in their lives – their parents. There is no perfect parent and it is just as important a child see both parents flaws as well as long as their strengths provided those flaws are not detrimental to long term child well being.

Let’s work on reforming the best interest standard and placing more emphasis on equal parenting time between fit parents as the best interest of the child.

#voteyeson6

Omdahl on Measure 6, Did He Even Read It?

By Casey Wilson

Lloyd Omdahls op-ed in the Bismarck Tribune is not only a series of misleading statement of the facts, it just might be a great example in and of itself of the same atrocities he accuses someone else of doing. Here is the op-ed titled Parenting Measure Burdens Women.

First off let’s state what this really is – a former politicians attempt to get the votes of women on Measure 6 in North Dakota. Measure 6, for those unaware, is an effort to legislate the best possible circumstances for children caught in the middle of a separation, divorce or custody battle. It is a measure that asks you, North Dakota voters, if both moms and dads are important in children’s lives and if so, to ensure as equal time and decision making as possible. As society has changed and parental roles have shifted over the years, so has the research showing what is truly best for children when their parents choose to live apart. The past 20 years worth of research shows nearly equal parenting time for kids post separation or divorce of their parents provides for the best child outcomes. See what 110 of the Worlds Leading Child Development experts say here.

Omdahl seems to want to avoid any discussion on this. In fact, he starts by saying:

“Divorce is a messy business, very emotional for parents and traumatic for children. Parents lose perspective and are unable to deal objectively with the consequences of separation.

That is why the objectivity of the court system is critical in overseeing the negotiation process between separating parents.

In 90 percent of divorces, parents peacefully agree to a division of parenting time. Mothers usually end up with the major responsibility for primary residential parenting.”

We would first, love to know where Omdahl obtained the numbers in regard to 90% of divorces ending with parents agreeing to a division of parenting time.

Second, let’s talk about the points we do agree on:

Divorce can be messy. Which means, this is the most important time the system in place to help families through divorce and custody decisions do the job it claims to do – in a fair and unbiased manner.

Another fact we agree on, many of these cases settle out of court with minimal time for one parent. What Omdahl neglected to include is why – the non-custodial parent knows they are wasting everyone’s time and money trying to fight for their children.

The coalition of Keeping Kids First (a coalition of attorneys and feminist groups) released this information recently about North Dakota custody cases that are litigated:

2013 North Dakota Custody Rulings
Decided by Court 123 cases
Primary custody to mom: 72 cases or 58.54% of the time
Primary custody to dad: 20 cases or 16.26% of the time
Joint custody awarded: 23 cases or 18.70% of the time
Other: 3/2.44%
Blank 5/4.07%
123 100%

The statistics again, confirm what is already known – North Dakota courts still favor primary custody to moms regardless of the circumstances – two fit parents, the willingness of the other parent to continue to be a full part of their child’s life, the ability to equal parent or even the close proximity of the two homes. In a very outdated ‘Leave It To Beaver’ model, dads (most often) continue to be told, ‘well that’s tough.’ Even squeaky clean, dad-of-the-year Ward would be screwed the way the system works now.

What these numbers further show, is that if you are a noncustodial parent (most of the time a father) you most likely will spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars to upwards of a couple hundred thousand to fight for more time and more say in your children’s lives, only to have a 34% chance at best of gaining any ground. You’ve fought. Exhausted all resources. And you’re left broken and with minimal parenting time anyway. This is why these cases are settled under the shadow of the law – with minimal parenting time for the father in most cases.

Litigated cases are the true litmus test of North Dakota law. It is North Dakota law in action. The best interest of the child has been shown in 20 years worth of research to be joint residential custody. As you can see only 18% of litigated cases were awarded joint residential custody. North Dakota law and the current North Dakota best interest of the child standard is failing the children of North Dakota.

By the way, the lawyers at Keeping Kids First think these numbers are good.

Omdahl goes on to say:

“We don’t know what would constitute”unfit” under the standard of “clear and convincing evidence.” Would abuse make a parent unfit? Would an alcohol or drug addict be unfit? How about a convicted sex offender? Or a parent who terrorizes spouse and/or children?”

After reading this statement, we wondered if Omdahl even read the measure. Both parents should be assumed equal if measure six passes and there are numerous factors that need to be taken into account in order to decide whether both parents are fit: Here is the full measure. The factors:

a. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and child and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance.
b. The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a
safe environment.
c. The child’s developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs, both in the present and in the
future.
d. The sufficiency and stability of each parent’s home environment, the impact of extended family, the length of time the child has lived in each parent’s home, and the desirability of maintaining continuity in the child’s home and community.
e. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. f. The moral fitness of the parents, as that fitness impacts the child.
g. The mental and physical health of the parents, as that health impacts the child.
h. The home, school, and community records of the child and the potential effect of any change.
i. If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a child is of sufficient maturity to make a sound judgment, the court may give substantial weight to the preference of the mature child. The court also shall give due consideration to other factors that may have affected the child’s preference, including whether the child’s preference was based on undesirable or improper influences.
j. Evidence of domestic violence. In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence. If the court finds credible evidence that domestic violence has occurred, and there exists one incident of domestic violence which resulted in serious bodily injury or involved the use of a dangerous weapon or there exists a pattern of domestic violence within a reasonable time proximate to the proceeding, this combination creates a rebuttable presumption that a parent who has perpetrated domestic violence may not be awarded residential responsibility for the child. This presumption may be overcome only by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the child require that parent have residential responsibility. The court shall cite specific findings of fact to show that the residential responsibility best protects the child and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence. If necessary to protect the welfare of the child, residential responsibility for a child may be awarded to a suitable third person, provided that the person would not allow access to a violent parent except as ordered by the court. If the court awards residential responsibility to a third person, the court shall give priority to the child’s nearest suitable adult relative. The fact that the abused parent suffers from the effects of the abuse may not be grounds for denying that parent residential
responsibility. As used in this subdivision, “domestic violence” means domestic violence as defined in section 14-
07.1-01. A court may consider, but is not bound by, a finding of domestic violence in another proceeding under chapter 14-07.1.
k. The interaction and interrelationship, or the potential for interaction and interrelationship, of the child with any
person who resides in, is present, or frequents the household of a parent and who may significantly affect the
child’s best interests. The court shall consider that person’s history of inflicting, or tendency to inflict, physical
harm, bodily injury, assault, or the fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, on other persons.
l. The making of false allegations not made in good faith, by one parent against the other, of harm to a child as
defined in section 50-25.1-02.
m. Any other factors considered by the court to be relevant to a particular parental rights and responsibilities dispute.

So I am assuming only two things are happening either Mr. Omdahl has not read the measure or he is actually deliberately trying to mislead the public of North Dakota by saying that there are no parental fitness factors. This is commonly referred to as a scare tactic try to make you believe that a bunch of child abusers and sex offenders will be raising children equally.

He then goes on to say, in this very misleading statement:

“Equality sounds good, but Measure 6 would change the impartial system now in place. And because over 80 percent of parents with primary residential care are women, the burden imposed by this measure would fall primarily on them. To fight an unfit parent, women would have to pay for the lawyers and investigators to prove the unfitness of a hostile parent. Unless they can come up with the money, they will have to live with the constant harassment of a disgruntled ex-spouse.”

First of all there is nothing more impartial than equality. He contradicts himself by saying moms have custody 80% of the time and in the sentence before claims the system impartial. What?

What is impartial about the statistics of litigated cases above? The fact is the current system in North Dakota is anything but impartial.

If an unfit parent challenges custody and chooses to litigate, as stated in the op-ed, a custodial parent will need to prove them unfit. True.

Omdahl, in the current system they already need to do that as well.

The only difference is that a “clear and convincing” standard will be used. In other states, this has led to far less ‘he said, she said’ and fewer false allegations of abuse. Current statistics show 40% to 80% of all abuse accusations in custody cases are false or unsubstantiated. This is often how one parent begins alienating the children as the courts often before any claims are substantiated, side with one parent. This tactic is abusive in itself and this would mean many children in North Dakota are currently in the custody of abusive parents.

Plain and simple, Omdahl unwittingly proves there is a bias within the current North Dakota family law system towards mothers and he firmly believes this is a good thing.

Don’t blindly believe the lies and half truths you’re trying to be sold. Measure 6 is good for families, and what’s good for families is good for kids. Children will have more parenting time with both parents. This is a true “keeping kids first” measure. Moms and dads will both be able to participate in the work force and provide direct care for the kids. We all agree an intact marriage is best for kids, the next best thing if parents separate is kids having equal time with two fit parents…exactly what measure 6 does.

Simply stated, married parents do not have their children pulled away from them for no particular reason. The court does not decide that a married parent cannot see their children without “clear and convincing evidence” of wrongdoing. Why should it be any different with the dissolution of the marriage. Measure 6 preserves parent-child relationships.

We all agree abusive parents should not have custody of children. But currently many good loving parents are being minimized and edged out due to this current system that is advocated by these attorneys and feminist groups at Keeping Kids First. Let’s stop this huge problem in our society. Voting yes on Measure 6 will do what’s best for kids and families of North Dakota and let them heal their families after separation so they can put their money towards their kids and not to the attorneys at Keeping Kids First

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.

If you want to read the original article, go to:
http://dakotastudent.com/4800/opinion/measure-six-poses-threat-to-the-children-of-north-dakota/#sthash.FkZu8XUR.dpuf

Both Parents are Important

I just read the article “When did Fathers Become Expendable” and felt compelled to write a response. A lot of this is going to be based on my gut feeling and a lot is going to be based on my experience. Some of it will be based on statistics.

The article, making a case for why fathers are important, is a response to a sort of undercurrent in our society that seems to marginalize the role of fathers in children’s lives. Since I’ve experienced how this plays out in the courts and in society, I can tell you that this sort of idea of fathers as a “less than parent” is very real. This idea is often expressed with statements like dads watching children are “babysitting” or dads wanting to watch their children “are good dads.”

The social dialogue needs to change on parenting. There is too much emphasis on gender roles and not enough emphasis on parenting responsibility. There is a lot of talk about all of things that mothers and fathers give. The focus should be on creating and supporting the role of two loving parents. The benefit of this emphasis is to give children more support. Rather than citing gender differences as the source good, bad or better parents, the focus should be on enlisting the support of the two persons responsible for creating and loving the child.

Two moms can raise healthy children. Two dads can raise healthy children. Heterosexual couples can raise healthy children. Split parents can raise healthy children. Both parents can contribute equally, albeit sometimes very differently, to their children’s lives. Women can teach boys and girls about courage. Men can teach children about love and compassion. These qualities or values are not solely the traits of one gender.

One parent can do a good job, but it is more difficult to parent as a single parent. It does not mean children will be forever scared if two parents aren’t involved. However, the love and support of two parents is helpful to a child’s development. Denying a child a loving relationship with a supportive parent is not a good idea. It denies children the strengths, values and care of another parent. We are a society that advertises good parenting and yet creates barriers, through the family court system, to playing the role of a good parent.

Nobody likes divorces or separations. Those people who have gone through it won’t tell you that it was a fun time. Children won’t tell you it was an enjoyable experience. However, children should not be a prize for “winning.” Our laws and the outcome of family courts have decided that women love their children 80 percent more than men based on the outcome of most custody arrangements. Men are labeled abusive or “bad dads” until they prove otherwise. I, personally, didn’t realize I was labeled a deadbeat, disengaged, and non-loving parent until I went through our courts.

It makes sense to assume that both parents love their children. They always have. Men and women have played different roles in parenting historically. Women have also played a different role in the workplace historically. Those things have changed and our society has changed. What has not changed is the need for children to be loved and supported. What has also not changed is that both men and women love their children. They love them in different ways and they gain strengths from both parents.

Children do better with fathers in their lives. This has a lot to do with a parent’s loss not being felt by children and less to do with gender differences. Having a loving and supportive masculine figure around is advantageous to children. Healthy relationships with men and healthy ideas about masculinity can occur without men present in a child’s life. It is just that having a regular “father figure” engaged in a child’s life is better. Children feel it when that “father figure” is not around. The stats about the benefits to children with fathers around indicate that children gain “something” from the father. Those intangible things from fathers are not easily quantifiable or simply explained by a man being present. This issue of the importance of fathers is not a statement about mothers being incapable of raising children without men or about same sex couples not being able to do a good job. The issue of the importance of fathers is about the benefits of enlisting the strengths of men. A father wanting to play a role in raising children is not an anomaly. This type of engagement is an evolved expression of the changes that have occurred in our society. Make no mistake, men have always been parents. They just parented differently in the past. They parent differently in the present and will in the future.

Children losing their parents and children feeling torn between two families are hurt by those circumstances. Children need to feel loved and supported. Children feel that best when the people that have always loved them are present. Healthy childhood development is not tied to the gender of the parent(s) or even blood. It is tied to how children bond and grow with those who have nurtured them. It is also tied to how they are shaped by the society that says this is what love and support are.

Our society needs to enlist help from both parents and ensure that both can give to their children. This is best expressed with a better distribution from family courts of parenting responsibility: time, money, and love. The circumstance of each family and child will dictate how children receive care. However, assumptions should not be made as to who is the best parent based on gender. Family court focuses on placing children with the lesser of two evils which is why home evaluators look for what is wrong with homes. There are clear distinctions between safe homes and homes with unfit parents. However, the vast majority of homes have two parents who are good people just trying to raise their kids the best way that they can. The focus needs to shift on creating greater supports for children. The previous cultural narrative and family courts have been focused on how we can create single parent homes.

Kids benefit from more support. That support is not tied to a gender. There are a lot of gifts that parents have that they give to their children. Some of those gifts are present more in men. Some are present more in women. The focus should be on how to provide those gifts to our children rather than assuming that only one parent has gifts. Children need and do better with the love of both parents. Our laws and social dialogue need to shift to how we can better express providing that care for children.