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Proposed North Dakota measure seeks equality in child custody

| Jun 17, 2014 | Child Custody |

A shared parenting measure that would give both parents equal rights and responsibilities in North Dakota child custody cases could be on the November ballot for voter consideration. The sponsoring committee delivered over 13,500 signatures to the office of the secretary of state and says it expects to have about 1,500 more within days. That’s well over the 13,452 needed for consideration to have a measure included on a state ballot.

As the sponsoring committee chairman said, “This was our first obstacle. Now it’s just time to educate the public.” So far, she says she knows of no organized effort to oppose the measure. The Secretary of State’s office will make the final determination of whether the measure appears on the Nov. 4 ballot by July 21.

The text of the measure says that “no requesting biological or adoptive parent” can be denied equal parenting time, decision-making responsibility or residential responsibility in a child custody case. It also states that the “best interests and welfare of the child” will be considered in these cases. Exceptions would be made for any history of domestic violence or if anyone else is residing in the parent’s home who “may significantly affect the child’s best interests.”

The emphasis of the ballot measure is on parental responsibility and rights rather than specifically talking about fathers and mothers or men and women. However, this measure, if enacted into law, could give North Dakota family law attorneys an important legal advantage in helping fathers who seek to play a significant role in their children’s lives when their marriage or relationship with the mother ends. As men take on greater parenting responsibilities, either by choice or necessity, it seems only in the best interest of children who are used to having fathers actively involved in their lives that this continues to be the case when their parents are no longer together.

Source: Bismarck Tribune, “Parental rights petitions turned in” Nick Smith, Jun. 16, 2014

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