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May 10th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
At the 11th hour, the Minnesota State Senate passed a bill requiring the presumption of shared parenting with minimum parenting time for each parent of 35%.  That 35% falls short of the House bill that provides for a minimum of 45% parenting time for each parent.  But opposition to that remaining 10% was unexpectedly intense in the Senate, forcing proponents of equal parenting to retrench.  Some 70% of senators ended up voting for the watered-down bill.

Presumably, since the House and Senate bills differ, there will be a process of reconciliation and the reconciled bill sent to Governor Mark Dayton for his signature.

The 35% parenting time in the Senate bill could be ordered by judges using a one-week/two weeks formula during the school year and then tweaked to add a bit of time in the summer or on holidays.  That would mean that children would not be forced to pick up and move from house to house any more frequently than they already do in the standard “one weekend per fortnight plus one night per week” formula.  Indeed, their lives would be disrupted less.  But of course there are many ways in which judges can provide for 35% parenting time depending on the legitimate needs of the parties.

Assuming the bills are reconciled and the governor signs the new bill into law, we can expect opponents of fathers and children to begin their campaign of disinformation in an attempt to roll back the progress.  That’s what happened in Australia immediately following the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act.  Long before conclusive data could be assembled, anti-father advocates proclaimed the reforms a failure that permitted abusive fathers to get custody.  Never mind that there was essentially no evidence for the proposition, likely because the law contained exceptions for domestic abuse.  But opponents of fathers and children rarely allow a little thing like facts to get in their way.  If they did that, they could hardly oppose children’s ongoing relationships with their dads, now could they?

What we’ll likely hear from the state’s family law practitioners will be complaints about process and from the anti-dad crowd that the new law in some way requires judges to give custody to abusive fathers.  In other words, the usual nonsense.  Like all custody laws I’ve ever seen or heard of, this one has ample protections against custody grants to abusers.  It rarely happens now, and it won’t in the future.  But, as Molly Olson of the Center for Parental Responsibility pointed out in her email to me and others,

The battle will never end. The opposition is powerful and well-funded and they will continue to everything they can to prevent the legislature from putting the power back in the hands of the people on this issue. Never sit on your laurels. If you care about this issue, always stay on top of any developments.

That’s sound advice.  And let’s underline in red Molly’s words “putting the power back in the hands of the people.”  Equal parenting post-divorce is favored by substantial majorities of adults and children alike.  Those who oppose it are small minorities of anti-father zealots and elites made up of family lawyers and judges whose pockets get lined by the current system.  Any victory for fathers and children is also a victory for mothers and society generally, all of whom have a stake in the healthier, happier, more productive children that equal parenting tends to raise.

While we’re at it, let’s give huge thanks to Molly Olson for her years of work on this issue.  She’s been the most dogged and effective of fathers’ rights promoters and she’s finally won even though, as she points out, victory is never final.  So send her a bottle of champagne or whatever best expresses your respect and gratitude for her tireless work.

Now let’s all start preparing for the next fight.

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