A married couple getting divorced needs to be prepared for different possible child custody arrangements. The outcome of many cases in North Dakota involves one parent being recognized as "custodial" and the other being recognized as "non-custodial." Children spend the majority of their time with the custodial parent, while the non-custodial parent gets some visitation periods. However, many people are now advocating that "shared parenting," an outcome where children spend an equal amount of time with either parent, should be the default outcome of a child custody case in North Dakota.
One advocate states the parenting guidelines in North Dakota indicate that non-custodial parents should get four days per month with the children. Proponents of shared parenting argue that four days is an unacceptable amount of time when both parents are capable and fit to parent. Advocates for shared parenting state that the idea is backed by research. One supporter of the idea stated that studies have shown it is in a child's best interest to spend an equal amount of time with two "good" parents.
People have been trying to get shared parenting passed into law for several years. Bills that would establish a presumption of equal custody have been voted down in the past by the South Dakota legislature. This year, however, advocates are hopeful that a law will be passed that could represent a move towards shared parenting. Senate Bill 74 would set up guidelines that that courts would follow in order to determine if both parents are "fit" to have custody. While this bill still leaves the ultimate custody arrangement up to the judge, shared parenting supporters see it as a compromise that could lead to joint custody eventually being the first consideration in all such cases.
There's no guarantee that this bill will pass, however. Even if it doesn't, shared parenting supporters are likely to persist. They point to research that indicates children in a situation where one parent is absent are more at risk for incarceration, teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school. Only time will tell if the North Dakota legislature will be convinced enough by the research to eventually pass shared parenting into law.
Source: KDLT News, "Shared Parenting Bill Gains Momentum" Rachel Skytta, Feb. 01, 2014