November 6, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
North Dakotans overwhelmingly rejected Measure 6 on Tuesday that would have established a presumption of equal parenting in child custody cases in the state. Although precise figures aren’t available, over 60% of voters voted ‘No’ on the measure.
That of course is a sad result. It’s a result that will harm the future children of divorce in the state. And it’s a result that will harm fathers and mothers, and further tear the fabric of North Dakota society.
Just why the people voted against Measure 6 is unknown. Just a month prior to the election, a survey conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business Administration and Public Policy found that those in favor of Measure 6 outnumbered those opposed by a 45% - 30% margin.
Clearly, at least one of two things must be true. First, and the more likely of the two, is that spending by the State Bar Association of North Dakota in the four weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote swayed voters. The second possibility is that some of those who said they’d vote ‘Yes’ got cold feet for reasons of their own. The latter has certainly been known to happen, but it’s impossible to know at this point whether it did on Tuesday.
If State Bar expenditures turned the tide against Measure 6, that can be easily remedied prior to the next election. As I’ve said before, the Bar’s funding of the anti-shared parenting effort was blatantly at odds with existing law as enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in various cases. Future such expenditures should be made impossible by resort to the injunction process. A single member of the legal profession practicing in North Dakota would be all it would take to file the appropriate lawsuit and obtain an injunction.
What are the lessons to be learned from this defeat? One may be that the process of initiative or referendum isn’t the silver bullet some supporters of equal parental rights might wish. It has its advantages, most notably the ability to acquaint the public with the nature of the opposition. Family attorneys are among the best enemies anyone could want and the fact that they make their considerable incomes by promoting conflict between parents over children gives them a uniquely bad odor to voters.
That’s presents a problem for those who oppose shared parenting they don’t face when lobbying state legislators.
I’m not yet ready to put aside the initiative process as a possible means of accomplishing shared parenting. It’s likely that problems with the wording of the initiative in North Dakota made ‘Yes’ votes more difficult to cast. And of course the dramatic imbalance in funding between the Pros and Cons made a huge difference.
For the next couple of years, it’s business as usual in North Dakota. But those of us who know the value of keeping two parents in children’s lives and the role lawyers and courts play in keeping children separate from one parent will keep trying, secure in the knowledge that the worm will turn.
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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