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
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
c. The child’s developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs, both in the present and in the
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