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October 16, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

With just three weeks to go before Election Day, North Dakota shared parenting initiative leads in the polls with 44% of respondents in favor of Measure 6 and just 30% opposed. The remaining 26% are as yet undecided. Here’s the rundown on the poll (Bismarck Tribune, 10/15/14). The survey was conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business Administration and Public Affairs and has a 5% margin of error.

Although the pollsters pronounced themselves surprised at the various demographic splits among respondents, they shouldn’t have been.

Robert Wood, an associate political science professor at UND who helped conduct the poll, said the divide between supporter and opponents didn’t fall where some may have expected.

“You would think there was going to be a split,” he said. “You would think that, the way this has been portrayed by both sides, that fathers, or men, are perceived as feeling that they’ve been slighted in the current process.”

To the contrary, the poll shows no gender divide over the measure with broad support across demographic groups.

Men and women are split nearly even on the issues with 43 percent of men and 45 percent of women responding they were in favor of the measure.

Another 31 percent of men and 29 percent of women planned to vote no on the measure. Data shows 26 percent of both genders responded as being undecided.

The trends also are consistent across age groups, location and political parties, according to Wood.

“There’s not any real spike to indicate this particular demographic group is opposed to this or even particular demographic group is undecided,” he said.

If pollsters were aware of other polling on shared parenting, they might have been less surprised by the results. In Canada, for example, polls over the past 15 years have consistently shown strong support for shared parenting and they too cut across all lines of sex, age, political persuasion, etc. Of course those are measures of attitudes and this is about how people intend to vote in an actual election that’s just around the corner. That is, the North Dakota survey records what people intend to do to change their own lives and the policies of the state in which they live. There’s nothing theoretical about it.

Perhaps Lloyd Omdahl might want to rethink his Bismarck Tribune op-ed opposing the measure. His central claim was that, in some way, women would be adversely affected if Measure 6 passes. Of course, as I stated in my response to him, in fact the opposite is true. By relieving mothers of half the burden of child care that they currently have between 80% and 84% of the time, they’d be free to earn more and save more for retirement than family courts currently permit them to do. And you’d think that, with his solicitude for women’s well-being, Omdahl would support that. After all, over 40% of single mothers with children in the home live in poverty nationwide. Taking half the childcare burden off them would go a long way to ameliorate that terrible problem.

It just may be that those very women understand the situation a bit better than does Omdahl. They outpolled men in favor of Measure 6 by 45% to 43%.

There’s no statistical difference between Republicans (40% in favor) and Democrats (45% in favor) and not much between the various age groups. About the only group staunchly against the measure are those who don’t have a high school diploma. Fifty-seven percent of them say they’ll vote against shared parenting come November 4.

Interestingly, Wood said Measure 6 is largely flying under the radar of public awareness. That means opponents haven’t been able to raise the type of generalized resistance to shared parenting they need in order to defeat the measure.

The proposal seems to have a lower profile when compared to other measures, according to Wood.

“I haven’t seen a lot of mobilized opposition,” he said. “Supporters will go to the polls based on this one issue. But opponents, there doesn’t appear to be the same organized opposition to Measure 6 that there has been to Measure 1 or Measure 5.”

North Dakota Shared Parenting for Kids Initiative, the committee headed by measure proponents, recently began running TV ads sponsored by national organizations and touting endorsements from celebrities such as Kiefer Sutherland of TV show “24” fame.

That lack of mobilized opposition isn’t because the one demographic that’s overwhelmingly opposed to the measure – family lawyers – haven’t been trying. According to documents on file with the Secretary of State’s Office, they formed an organization called Keeping Kids First around September 4th of this year, i.e. two months before the election. One month later KKF had already received a whopping $70,000 from the North Dakota State Bar Association coffers. They’ve already spent $53,000 of it on a huge media buy from Prairie Airwaves to run ads opposing Measure 6.

That’s in stark contrast to the $4,200 spent by the North Dakota Shared Parenting for Kids organization that supports the measure. Can you say David vs. Goliath?

It doesn’t get much clearer than it is in North Dakota. As their public pronouncements clearly demonstrate, opponents of the measure have essentially nothing to support their opposition. If they did, don’t you think they’d say so? But time and again they fall back on the most threadbare assertions like Omdahl’s. They know as we do that the social science on shared parenting is overwhelmingly on the pro side. Kids and parents alike do better when they maintain meaningful relationships with each other, but against all that’s fair and decent, family courts routinely render one parent, usually Dad, a mere visitor in his child’s life. No one would argue that’s good for kids when the parents are married, so how does it all of a sudden become “in the best interests of the child” when they divorce?

Opponents don’t have an answer for that one or an explanation for why they support business as usual in family courts that is demonstrably bad for children, bad for mothers, bad for fathers and bad for society generally. Until they do, voters are right to ignore their blandishments.

If there were truly much opposition to shared parenting, why isn’t there any at the grassroots level? Proponents have gone through the nitty-gritty of getting thousands of North Dakotans to place Measure 6 on the ballot and are fighting night and day to get it passed? Opponents? Not so much. They filed documents with the Secretary of State’s office reserving a name for an otherwise non-existent organization and allowing them to raise money. That happened apparently on September 4th. They put up a website and got first $60,000 and then another $10,000 from the state bar association. That’s not an organization, it’s a shell whose sole purpose is to defeat Measure 6. It’ll fold up like a cheap suit on November 5.

The point being that there’s basically one set of people who want to defeat shared parenting and maintain the dysfunctional status quo – lawyers. They’re the only ones funding the anti-Measure 6 push and make up six of the eight members of the committee of the bogus “organization,” Keeping Kids First. This of course is no surprise. Whenever and wherever shared parenting legislation comes before a legislative committee, lining up to speak against it are family lawyers. They know what butters their bread - the type of parental conflict that the current system fosters and shared parenting would tend to reduce.

In North Dakota, those lawyers are so desperate to defeat the initiative that they’re violating the law to do it by using bar funds to promote activities that have nothing to do with regulating the practice of law in the state.

I’ll post more on that tomorrow.

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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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