Tag Archives: Shared parenting

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

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South Dakota and Its Money Grubbing Ways

Currently in South Dakota, we take pride in our balanced budgets and our fiscal conservativism. Many of us love that our state is financially responsible, but the great nature of that conservativism can, at times, also be a negative. While preaching from the highest point on the Great Plains how well we do things alone, and that family values are at the core of who we are here as a state, South Dakota is secretly reliant on federal money, keeping sincere better policies from being put into law. Especially when it comes to family.

Case in point: Federal government grants on child support enforcement.

Seven-eight million dollars in federal grants were run through the SD Department of Social Services and Division of Child Support in 2012 alone. These dollars keep our child support and social services offices running. These grants are only one of the ways the state is making money from child support and it’s enforcement.

Why is this worth talking about?

First, for every child support dollar collected by the state, a reward in grant money from the federal government comes in. This means incentive for the state to allow inequitable parenting time with a child of divorce with his or her parents, Do you find yourself scratching your head asking what this means? Well, the way child support works: The less time one parent spends with his or her children, the more child support dollars are collected. This in turn means more money that the state of South Dakota pockets from the federal government. If parents share more equal time, fewer dollars are exchanging hands. Which means federal dollars coming into the state decrease as a result if this were the case. It’s a money game our our state and federal elected officials are playing, not what is in the best interest of our children.

This grant money actually gives states incentives to alienate one parent from a child’s life for profit.

Second, the federal government also gives states like South Dakota financial incentive to enforce visitation orders, $100,000 annually. None however for enforcement of child custody agreements when a custodial parent refuses to allow children time with a non-custodial parent despite it being their legally agreed upon time with their children.

$7 million for child support enforcement and $100,000 for visitation enforcement. These numbers clearly indicate why state officials have not seriously taken reform in visitation and shared parenting to heart. It is clearly not in our states best interest – financially – to grant more equal custody situations as they will lose federal grant moneys. Little consideration is given to the actual family best case scenario when too much money is at stake.

Of course, this is only one of the many ways the state makes money from alienating parent and child. See statistics here.

Further proving the point our state is concerned more with money than a child’s best interest: There are over 130 statutes dealing with child support and it’s enforcement in South Dakota law, conversely there are 2 statutes dealing with a parent denying visitation or parenting time.

South Dakota is open for business, does well in business and operates at times conservatively. But in the process, also continues to be in the business of making money off of further tearing families apart in what is already one of the most challenging times in their lives.

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These things happen in others states as well, those with even larger populations than South Dakota have even more to gain/lose.

Child support is important so that we can guarantee our children are best cared for in every way, we are not arguing this. What we are arguing is that the government should not be giving incentives to keep one parent out of kids’ lives. We should all provide for our kids, the best way to do that is to equalize parenting time. This alone in capable and fit families would maximize child support. Why? Because both parents could provide for the child in their own respective home, child support paid to another parent would be minimal (our government not looking to make a buck off of us in the meantime), and the finances used for child care could then be maximized in both homes. Although, fewer dollars running through a state government agency would mean less profit for the state and hundreds of state employes twiddling their thumbs, or with no job at all. Well, we just can’t have that, now can we.

This isn’t the only area where South Dakota, while claiming to be conservative, is quite liberal and reliant on federal dollars to balance its budget.

It should also be pointed out that in order to maximize actual child support for our children, equal parenting would allow each parent to 1) maximize time in the workplace for income 2) allow each parent to keep his or her income to provide for the child in his or her home. Currently one parent is often so financially overburdened financially, even with minimal parenting time, cannot provide for that child in his or her home. How is this “the best interest of that child”.

There are many ways our state government would save money. Please share your thoughts. Kids need both fit parents.

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“Kids and Noncustodial Parents Get Screwed.” – Child Support Case Worker

In working to reforming our current system, I meet great people on a daily basis who see unfairness.

I am not alone in this, of course.

Today’s post is from a Division of Child Support case worker in South Dakota and has contacted me several times concerning South Dakota’s unfair custody laws. She asked to post anonymously as she believes she could lose her job if her superiors knew of her stance. So I post this, humbled she would take that risk and grateful for her insights. I believe you will be too.

This is from the front lines of child support and custody in South Dakota and neighboring states. Our anonymous writer today works with custody and child support on a daily basis.

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Here is her unedited letter:

“I am a Division of Child Support Caseworker in South Dakota. As such, I speak with other caseworkers in SD and nearly all other states in the US every day, and know there are very few options for “non-custodial” parents who are being denied equal access to their children, unless they are fortunate enough to be able to afford a long and expensive custody battle, which is extremely rare, especially in cases where the parents were never married.
While your group needs to pursue one issue at a time, your particular issue being custody and visitation arrangements after a divorce, I hope that you will also pursue shared parenting and child support arrangements for parents who were never married, as this is an issue that definitely needs to be addressed and rectified.
Before continuing, I will say that I, and all DCS caseworkers, recognize that the “non-custodial” (and we don’t like that term) parent may be the mother rather than the father. In most cases, however, the NCP is dad and the CP is mom, so please forgive my use of general terms such as “she” and “he”. I use them for the sake of simplicity, not out of a lack of respect or understanding that mothers do sometimes get the raw end of the deal, along with their children.
In every state in this country, the child support system is not only broken, but is in desperate need of repair. It is unbalanced and very often unfair. The child support calculation is based on the income of both parents, in every state, although I will admit there could be a state or two that does not do it this way and I am just not aware. In most states, if either parent is unemployed but not disabled, they are presumed to be capable of working 40 hours a week at minimum wage, so their income is imputed at $1275 per month. Following this calculation, if mom is willingly unemployed and dad is employed full time, making a mere $10 an hour, dad has a child support obligation of $357 per month for one child. (I got this number from SD’s child support calculator website and it is accurate.) Every parent, regardless of the relationship (or lack of one) that existed at the time the child was conceived, has a responsibility to provide financial support for their child. That is a fact. But, should dad, making $10 an hour really be forced to pay $357 to someone who is not willing to work? Where is mom’s responsibility in this? In these situations, mom (unless she is actually working 40 hours a week for minimum wage, which is rare), is receiving food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance, so she is sitting back, living a meager life and doing nothing to improve the lives of her children, and not having to lift a finger to do it. In the meantime, dad is working hard and still can’t afford to keep the lights on in his own home.
Most of the dads I speak to are willing to pay the child support, despite the financial stress. They understand that there is a little person out there who needs their help, and they are okay with that. In many of these cases, dad has not seen his child even once since the relationship with his child’s mother demised, and he has no recourse other than to hire a lawyer to get a visitation order. The first problem with this is that dad, making $10 an hour and paying $357 a month in child support has no money left over for to hire a lawyer. The second problem with this is that, even when he does and gets the order, mom can still deny the visitation and there will be no consequences to her for doing so. Sure, dad can take her back to court again, and the judge will tell her to behave, but if she doesn’t, nothing will happen in SD. Dad and the kids are still denied access to one another.
Approximately 2 years ago, the state of Illinois passed legislation that actually puts repercussions in place for CPs that refuse to follow the Illinois State Visitation Guidelines. If the CP denies access to the children to the NCP, her driver’s license can be restricted, and not be reinstated until she complies. What a novel idea. I am beside myself, wondering why every state has not enacted this legislation. We restrict, suspend, or revoke the driver’s licenses (and other licenses) of NCPs when they don’t pay the child support, even when they are unwillingly unemployed, yet we allow CPs to use their children as weapons against NCP, regardless of whether he is paying.
I had two office visits today, both from dads who are doing the best they can and still are being denied access to their children, simply because mom decided she doesn’t like them anymore. The first has a 5 year old daughter that he desperately wants to have a relationship with, but hasn’t been allowed to see since she was 1 year old. At least in that situation, the poor child doesn’t know what she’s missing in not being able to see her dad. The second is much more sad, and it honestly makes me very angry. Dad raised mom’s first child as his own from an infant to 4 years old. In the meantime, they had a child together. They were together for another year or two. For the next several years, dad had BOTH kids – even the one that was not his – for weekend visitation. Not enough, but at least it’s something. Then, mom decided to pull the rug out from underneath dad, with no consideration for her children. Dad has now not seen either child for a year and a half. He and mom were not married, so mom has all the power, unless he can afford an attorney, which he can not possibly afford to do.
As we sat and talked, there were several times that I could see he was struggling not to cry. Ever since mom decided (for what crazy reason no one knows) to withhold visitation, both children, and especially his biological child, have been acting out in school. They’ve been bullying other kids and being defiant to authority. His biological son was finally allowed to see his half sister (that dad had from another relationship) after being denied access to her for a long time. According to his sister, all he talked about was how much he missed his dad and how he is so happy he has all these things that his dad gave him, because it helps him remember his dad. Mom has the kid in therapy, that dad is paying for, and she is apparently oblivious to the reason why the kid needs therapy. I could tell her, but it would probably result in me being fired. Mom has 3 kids by 3 different dads and I would like to talk to her about that as well. Bottom line is mom is sitting back, collecting child support and state benefits, and not doing a damn thing to support her children, but she will be the first to call if a payment is a day late. This is just one case I am telling you about, and it’s not even the worst one; it’s just the one at the top of my mind.
The bottom line is this. We need to have state agencies that provide free services for NCPs to have fair and equal access to their children. We already have state agencies that help people who make no contribution themselves collect child support, and we are screwing kids and NCPs in the process. That is not acceptable in any state. I hope your legislature – and mine – will figure that out. Good luck and God Bless to you and your children.
All that being said, I hope all the NCPs (I really hate that term) understand that your CS case worker is not against you. We are forced to support the order, whatever that may entail. We have no power to help you with anything else, but we really would like to. God bless and God speed to you and your children.”

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The Lucrative Divorce Industry in South Dakota Keeps Kids From Good Parents

By Casey Wilson
Here is an opinion piece in The Mitchell Daily Republic, on the South Dakota divorce industry. Thanks to the Daily for picking it up.

I will post a response to this made by Fathers and Families Here is the article written by Robert Franklin.

Once again this year the forces for equal parenting in South Dakota tried to get a bill passed enacting that into law. And once again the bill failed. The South Dakota Legislature, like those elsewhere just can’t seem to grasp the basic, simple fact that equal parenting is in everyone’s interest, kids, fathers, mothers and society generally. Enacting equal parenting legislation would hugely benefit the state and save everyone a lot of heartache and money too.

But, despite the willful ignorance of elected officials, those who are determined to see that legislation passed, remain undeterred. They’ll be back next session, and the session after that if need be until their representatives see sense.

And speaking of sense, this op-ed is about as sensible and straightforward as any I’ve read (The Daily Republic, 3/21/13). It’s an accurate statement of facts, a clarion call to support equal parenting, a cogent condemnation of existing law and a spot-on identification of who the culprits are who year after year have their way with the legislature at everyone’s expense. Here’s guest columnist Casey Wilson.

I want to thank The Daily Republic and its staff this past legislative session for covering a very tough subject: kids’ right to as much time as possible with both parents in a divorce (i.e., shared parenting) in South Dakota.

While the bill failed again this year, we hope for continued support, because this issue isn’t going away. Our current standard placement model is keeping great parents and extended family out of our kids’ lives, and the laws are out of date and creating more problems than they solve.

What could be simpler and more accurate? Just because the bill failed doesn’t mean the issue is going away. It’s not. That’s because it’s far too important to vanish into thin air and too many people know it. So they’ll be back come next legislative session. And back again, and back again if necessary. Every session the legislature will look at the issue of equal parenting until it passes. Count on it.

South Dakota’s treatment of its non-custodial parents and their children is about as bad as it gets in the United States.

Under current South Dakota Codified Law 25-4a-11, it says that in initial divorce filings the parent who was majority caregiver shall be named custodial parent, and the other parent shall be named noncustodial parent and given parenting time established in the South Dakota visitation guidelines. Unfortunately, these guidelines advocate for four days per month parenting time for the child with the noncustodial parent.

How could anyone design a worse system for caring for children when their parents have split up. “Yes little Andy or Jenny, the legislature understands that you love your father, rely on him for protection, guidance, love and caring, but that’s just too bad. Your mother is divorcing him and that means you are too. Have a nice life.” That’s the message the state’s elected officials are sending. Sound sensible? Sound caring?

In the first place, where did anyone get the idea that the parent who does the most childcare pre-divorce should get to do essentially all of it thereafter? Don’t they realize that children identify their parents and bond with them within the first weeks of life? Don’t’ they know that children don’t care if Mom does 65% of the hands-on parenting while Dad does 35%? Children bond with both parents and suffer terribly at the loss of either. Does it occur to the legislature that enacting a law that ensures that loss, that heartache and the many deficits children of divorce suffer because of it is bad public policy?

And where did anyone come up with the idea that Dad’s contribution to parenting is irrelevant to the child or its well-being. It’s true that Dad usually changes fewer diapers than does Mom. He prepares fewer meals, takes the child to the park less often, bathes the child less, etc. Generally speaking, those things are true. But here’s what else is generally true: it’s Dad who puts the roof over the heads of mother and child. She prepares the food, but his income buys it. When the child is sick, she takes it to the doctor whom Dad’s salary pays. Mother and child are warm in the winter and cool in the summer because of Dad’s income. Of course I could go on and on, but the point is that Dad’s way of caring for the child is every bit as important as is the mother’s. So why is he tossed aside in divorce like yesterday’s garbage?

Whatever the answer, it has nothing to do with little Andy or Jenny’s welfare. Indeed, the guidelines that provide for the child to see its father four days out of 30 is so contrary to a child’s well-being that it’s been shown by countless social scientists to be deeply harmful and that harm can last long into adulthood.

So why would a legislature be so blind, so willfully injurious to the state’s children? Casey Wilson hits the nail on the head.

Only five spoke out this year against the Kids Need Both Parents bill in committee: three attorneys, the State Bar and a domestic violence group. All of them stand to financially lose if parents are granted more equal time with their children in a divorce. The scare tactics of how terrible it would be to presume it is in a child’s best interest to have as much time as possible with both parents were atrocious, and at best were decades-old arguments that, across the nation, state by state, others are realizing couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rapid City attorney Linda Lea Viken, a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Commitee, was among those to testify against a rebuttable presumption of involving both parents equally at a time of divorce and said “the system works fine as it is.” Viken, in one custody case alone, billed more than $370,000 (Schieffer v. Schieffer) just this past year.

Why would someone who can make quite a living off conflict in a custody case thanks to our current adversarial system want anything to change? Very few parents who want equal and meaningful contact with their kids can afford $370,000.

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What’s left to say? Divorce lawyers thrive on parental conflict. In fact, if it happens to be in short supply at the outset of the divorce, they’re happy to create some. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Convincing one parent that the other is not the loving parent of little Andy or Jenny, but something closer to the Devil Incarnate is a tried and true method of running up the legal fees. The more animosity, the more motions there are to file, hearings to attend, assessments to order. And with each of those, the meter goes right on ticking. Four, five, six bucks a minute or more.

Of course lawyers couldn’t do that alone, but fortunately for them, they’ve got backup in the form of the legislature and the laws it passes. After all, when one parent stands to “win” sole custody of the child and the other stands to lose almost all contact with the child, who wouldn’t fight like a cornered dog to be the “winning” side. Considerable amounts of social science demonstrate exactly that. Shared parenting tends to ameliorate conflict over time while sole or primary custody does the opposite. No wonder divorce lawyers like sole custody; no wonder they invariably oppose equal parenting. Hey, it’s just like Linda Lea Viken said “the system works fine as it is.” For her and her compadres in the family law bar, in their $1,500 suits and alligator shoes, it works like a charm. For parents and children, not so much.

And let’s be clear. Custodial mothers who go from doing most of the childcare to doing almost all of it, sole custody isn’t exactly a bed of roses. All that extra parenting gets dumped on mothers at exactly the time when post-divorce financial realities mean she’s got to spend more time at work than ever before. The result is a mother who’s got too little energy to be the type of quality parent she was before.

Of course Dad could pick up the slack and passionately wants to, but the South Dakota Legislature decrees that he may not. Sure that’s likely to plunge him into a depression that makes him a worse parent, more likely to be out of work and more likely to take his own life. But why would elected officials notice that?

Kids suffer, dads suffer, moms suffer. But what is that compared to the earnings of a few lawyers? Those are South Dakota’s priorities. Really.

But they’re not the priorities of South Dakotans who know that equal parenting is best for all. That’s why they’ll be back next year, and the year after and the year after. They’re not going away.