June 22, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Meanwhile, in North Dakota, the amazingly persistent Mitchell Sanderson and his supporters have gotten almost 14,000 signatures on their petition to place an equal parenting referendum on the ballot this November. State law requires that any state-wide referendum petition have 13,452 signatures and Sanderson, et al have achieved that. Their petition and signatures are now with the Secretary of State for validation, and, when that’s accomplished, the referendum will be green-lighted for a November vote.
Here’s the wording of the referendum the voters will be considering.
It is the policy of the State of North Dakota that no requesting biological or adoptive parent shall be denied equal parental rights and responsibilities, equal parenting time, equal primary residential responsibility, and equal decision making responsibility of a child in a custody case. It is the policy of the State of North Dakota to presume that parents are fit and an award to both parents of equal parental rights and responsibilities, equal parenting time, equal primary residential responsibility, and equal decision making responsibility of a child is in the best interest of the child. The presumption of fitness as a parent shall only be rebutted upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence. The court shall support departures from equal parenting time with written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Fit parents may petition the court for a hearing which the court shall grant to support this statute. The provisions of this section control other provisions of state law that conflict with or are contrary to its provisions…
“Equal parenting time” is defined as a rebuttable presumption of approximate and reasonable equal time-sharing of a child with both of the child’s parents or a mutually agreed and signed parenting plan between the parents.
There’s other wording on the petition, but it reflects existing law. The above is what will be added to the law if the referendum passes. Here’s a brief article about the referendum (Jamestown Sun, 6/16/14).
Sanderson, a diesel mechanic, managed to pass an equal parenting referendum in his home county four years ago, but the state Attorney General went to court to stop it claiming it conflicted with existing state law. So Sanderson and his supporters are upping the ante. This November, voters will get to decide whether or not to change North Dakota law to reflect a presumption of equal parenting.
Sanderson’s first statewide effort failed, but got 47% of the vote, which has to be counted a miracle given that he was working with little money. This year, he hopes for a better outcome. Sanderson thinks there’s been enough publicity given the measure and the issue of shared parenting generally, to give the referendum a real shot this November.
Any assistance you can provide would of course be welcome. You can go to his Facebook page to learn how to help.
Come November, we’ll be watching the returns. Well soon know if a ballot initiative is what it takes for shared parenting to become law.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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