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Shared Parenting Initiative Update

What Is Best For Your Children After Divorce?

/ Family Law

Shared parenting is a movement that gained a ton of momentum in recent years. The premise behind the shared parenting initiative is to modify the existing child custody laws to lead to more equal parenting time for divorcing parents. While the shared parenting initiative affects the custody rights of both men and women, supporters argue its main intent is to rectify the stereotypes that many fathers feel they have to fight when battling a mother for custody of their child or children.

Proponent’s Position

According to Ned Holstein, who founded the National Parents Organization, supporters of the shared parenting initiative typically rely on three main arguments. Supporters argue that in modern day society gender roles have actually reversed in some situations, resulting in men providing more care taking, and women entering the workforce. They also point to studies indicating that the majority of Americans support the concept of shared custody, and that most states fall far short of awarding shared custody following divorces or custody battles. Finally, supporters point to the concern that courts have typically given more power to custodial parents, usually women, leaving non-custodial parents, usually men, frustrated over a lack of information and decision-making capability.

Opponent’s Position

Those in opposition to shared parenting have their own reasons for opposing shared parenting initiatives. One concern of many opponents is that shared parenting is being sought for financial gain, rather than for the right reasons, i.e., their children’s best interests. Another concern is that a shared parenting initiative may result in no consideration given to victims of domestic assault. Opponents have also expressed that joint custody could increase conflict between parents by creating a situation where parents will use a “stopwatch” to ensure custody is absolutely equal. The largest concern of opponents to shared parenting is that a generic formula mandating joint custody, or shared parenting, causes the individual needs of the family not to be at the forefront of the court’s decision.

Recent Developments in North Dakota

North Dakota is a state that has seen a tremendous push from the supporters of the shared parenting initiative. In 2014, an initiated measure brought forth by citizens of North Dakota, Measure 6, also known as the North Dakota Parental Rights Initiative, was put on the November ballot. It was defeated when 62% of North Dakotans voted in opposition to it. The North Dakota Parental Rights Initiative would have created a presumption that each parent is a fit parent unless clear and convincing evidence demonstrated the parent was unfit. This Initiative went a step further and granted parents equal parental rights and responsibilities, parenting time, primary residential responsibility, and decision-making over a child, unless they were proven to be unfit.

This year House Bill 1392 was brought forth by legislators. The original version of House Bill 1392 has been changed significantly, and its current form is much less lengthy. House Bill 1392 is similar to the North Dakota Parental Rights Initiative, but it is not identical. House Bill 1392 creates a rebuttable presumption that equal parenting time and residential responsibility promotes the best interests of the children, but that the court can deviate from this as long as it articulates its rationale for denying equal parenting time and residential responsibility. House Bill 1392 defines equal parenting time and residential responsibility as “time that is equal to or as close to fifty percent of the time as can be arranged on the circumstances but which is not less than thirty-five percent of the time.” While it passed the House in a vote of 71 to 21 in February, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee by the Senate and went to Committee Hearing on March 8, 2017. Only time will tell whether or not the Senate will pass House Bill 1392.

While the proponents and opponents of the shared parenting initiative may feel like they have nothing in common, they actually have one thing in common: Both are fighting vigorously to protect the best interests of children. At Severson, Wogsland & Liebl, the best interest of your children is always at the forefront of our minds. We will fight to ensure that your children’s best interests are taken into consideration.

If you find yourself in a contentious custody battle, please give us a call. There are three of us at SW&L who handle exclusively family law cases, including custody related issues. If you have a family law issue that you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to call 701-297-2890 and ask for JeniGreg, or Ben or email me at jennifer.albaugh@swlattorneys.com, Greg at greg.liebl@swlattorneys.com, or Ben at benjamin.freedman@swlattorneys.com.