January 10, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Shared parenting forces in Nebraska are moving to give the people of the state greater access to information about what orders family courts issue. Senator Laura Ebke has introduced Legislative Bill 879 that would do a simple thing. It would require the person who filed a divorce action or a motion to modify parenting time, custody, etc. to fill out a simple, one-page form stating what was ordered.
Those forms would be collected and the information compiled by the state Department of Health and Human Services and published. The information would be organized by judge so that anyone interested could see what individual judges do regarding legal custody, physical custody and parenting time.
Needless to say, that information could be quite potent for Nebraskans who elect their judges initially. Judges there are then subject to being removed from the bench by popular vote. The information that would be required, should LB 879 pass, would obviously be vital to voters in making the decision to retain a particular judge or not. And we do want an informed electorate, do we not?
Of course, in the not too distant past, lawyers and judges there have demonstrated considerable antipathy for the right of the people to know what they’re up to. So, for example, the Administrator of the Courts had to be sued to force him to turn over information about how family court judges are trained in the all-important subject of parenting time arrangements and how they do or don’t promote children’s welfare.
The open records statute applicable to the case was as clear as could be and the Administrator’s resistance to it looked like frivolous pleading to many, but justice prevailed and the state Supreme Court, in a scathing opinion, ruled in favor of the public’s right to know. And sure enough, what we learned was that what judges were being taught was directly at odds with the established science on shared parenting.
Plus, the last time a bill was filed to collect information, including whether domestic violence was alleged or found to have existed by a court, the DV establishment in Nebraska opposed the bill. That’s interesting to say the least. Why would DV advocates want to hide the true incidence of DV in divorce cases? Could it be that they know that what they routinely call an “epidemic” of DV is in fact nothing of the sort? Could it be that they know, as the analysis of divorce and custody cases done in Nebraska four years ago revealed, that DV was even alleged – much less found – in barely 5% of cases? Could it be that they fear that, if the truth were known, their government funding might be curtailed? It seems there are many reasons excuses why We the People shouldn’t know the truth.
More recently, one of the tactics of the mob that seeks to marginalize fathers in the lives of their children post-divorce has been to claim that shared parenting is routinely ordered by judges, so there’s no reason to pass a law encouraging that outcome. Tellingly, those who make the claim never get around to producing the slightest evidence for their claim. And, as we’ve seen in places like Nebraska, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Texas and elsewhere, when those data are compiled and analyzed, shared parenting orders turn out to be as scarce as hens’ teeth.
Of course, if the anti-dad crowd really believes their claims, we can count on them to support LB 879. After all, if they’re right, if shared parenting really is the norm, wouldn’t they want a nice reliable set of figures with which to prove their case?
So it’ll be instructive for all of us to see who supports and who opposes LB 879.
For my part, I can’t think of many reasons to oppose it. Indeed, the only objection I can imagine opponents raising is that it would cost too much. That is, it would require employee time to input all the data into some sort of a searchable database. But that argument won’t fly. The form used by the State of Washington on which LB 879 is based is simplicity itself. It takes the litigant who’s required to fill it out less than five minutes to do so. Inputting the information into the system would likely take even less. In short, cost is no reason to oppose this meritorious bill.
But those opposed to shared parenting are nothing if not imaginative when it comes to dreaming up objections to bills that seek to improve children’s access to both parents following divorce. So I expect them to come up with some amazing and entirely baseless ones here.
We’ll soon know, and hey, knowledge is good.
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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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