I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bill revamps child custody laws in N.D.

By Janell Cole , N.D. Capitol Bureau , The Jamestown Sun Published Tuesday, January 20, 2009

BISMARCK — Current child custody law in North Dakota “is in desperate need of improvement,” a legislator who helped lead a study told a Senate committee Monday.

Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, headed an interim committee that studied the issue after the 2007 Legislature.

The committee produced Senate Bill 2042, which proposes to take much of the animosity and repeat court appearances out of child custody cases. The study followed the defeat of a 2006 initiated measure that would have mandated shared parenting.

The bill got a hearing Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which took no immediate action.

The bill does four main things:

* Changes terminology in present law that refers to “custodial parent,” “non-custodial parent” and “visitation.” New terms are “primary residential responsibility” and “parenting time.” It also will refer to “decision-making responsibilities” and “parenting schedule.”

* Mandates parents in court with child custody issues — whether a married couple that is divorcing or a couple that never married but share children — must have a specific parenting plan they’ve mutually created and agreed to, or the court will write one for them. Plans must cover how the parents will handle routine or day-to-day decision-ma-king about their children’s lives, how they’ll make major decisions on education, health care and religion, schedule holidays, summers, and transportation for exchanges of the children.

* Allows parents who have disagreements to go to a parenting coordinator to act as a mediator. If the couple can’t agree with the aid of the coordinator, the coordinator can make a binding decision. The idea is that if parents are disagreeing about, for instance, who has the children for Thanksgiving, the parenting coordinator may help them come to an agreement before Thanksgiving, rather than going to court.

“It’s a start,” Meyer said. “And we’re very aware this will not solve everyone’s problems.”

A task force of the State Bar Association of North Dakota wrote the bill. Sen. Tom Fiebiger, D-Fargo, was on the task force and sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sherry Mills Moore of Bismarck, who headed the task force, said the bill doesn’t address child support issues.

A Bismarck woman who was divorced in 1993 testified against the bill, saying she believed it would only mean more legal bills for parents who are already paying attorneys in the divorce or custody cases.

Nancy Carlson predicted the new law would give too much power and too little accountability to the parenting coordinators.

“There are too many what-ifs,” she told the senators. “Who am I supposed to tell if I am unhappy with the coordinator?” Carlson ask-ed.

Moore didn’t rebut Carlson’s testimony during the hearing but said later that Carlson is confusing a mediation pilot project used for divorces in some counties with the parenting coordinator proposal. The use of the coordinator is strictly voluntary, as a way to avoid the much higher costs of hiring a lawyer to go back to court, which would also take longer.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Jamestown Sun


Paul M. Clements said...

This sounds like a bill that was passed in NH. After several years experience with the new law, several factors have become plain.
Changing terminology does not change the reality. The "residential parent" is still the sole custody mother.
"Allowing a parent to seek mediation" also "allows" that parent to opt out of mediation. And why would anyone expect a mother to agree to mediation, when opting out throws the case back to a court which gives custody to the mother in 90(+)% of cases.
Parenting Time" is still "visitation". Kids need Dads, not "visitors". Again, if the mother refuses to cooperate in the formulation of a "parenting plan" the court makes one up. Why bargain away entitlements the court is sure to provide. This ND bill is a cruel joke against fathers. There is only a superficial, meaningless change to the status quo. There are no mandates to ensure equality in the proceedings. There should be provision in the bill to MANDATE the optional provisions, and sanction the non-cooperative party by giving "sole" "residential" custody to the father.

Michael J. Murphy said...


Thanks for the perspective. On the surface it appears to be pretty cosmetic and if in practice it shapes up that way it is good to know ahead of time for those dads who live in North Dakota.

Given it is in the early stages work is required to get changes, if that is possible. Its sad that a previous shared parenting bill failed.

The nature of equality when it comes to fatherhood is a strange paradigm for most politicians and the judiciary and I can say, as the former stay-at-home parent it has nothing to do with the amount of time spent with the children prior to marriage breakdown and everything to do with gender.

We have much work to do so North Dakota dads get involved.

ndviper said...

It is okay at best but does not address shared parenting enough. Also child support needs to be addressed it does not take 50% of a father's income to raise a child. The father should not be forced to pay all the medical insurance and uncovered medical bills. The female gets free assistant state's attorney to go to court to establish child support but we have to hire a lawyer, that is not right. There needs to be a thing for education included 15% of the determined obligation should be directly invested into a savings account for only the child to touch when they are done w/ high school to use for higher education!!!!! That way we know some of the money actually makes it to the child, and that children from single parent homes can finally not be the ones who have the least chance at going to college. Feel free to email me.... ndviper@cableone.net

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