North Dakota Shared Parenting - Bureaucrats Intentionally Harming Our Children For Federal Incentive Money

Our government is officially "out of control" when we pay tax dollars to have them drive fathers out of the lives of their children. This is in fact the situation today. Federal incentives for the collection of child support now influence judges, bureaucrats and politicians to increase already onerous child support funds, based on income, not the cost of raising children. This is only possible when they force a father from having equal access to their children, which has been scientifically proven harmful to children by about 20 different measures. Billion of funds are now basically being paid by the federal government to [psychologically harm our children for life. Here are just a few stories on the North Dakota initiative to stop this madness.


VIEWPOINT: Measure complies with federal law

By Rob Port
Recently, North Dakota Human Services Director Carol Olson wrote a column about the North Dakota Shared Parenting Initiative, a measure which got about 17,000 petition signatures and likely will be on the ballot in November.
Olson states that should the initiative become law, it would cause North Dakota to lose out on more than $70 million in federal money for human services programs in the state. To back up her claim, she quotes a letter from the federal regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Thomas Sullivan.
Unfortunately, neither Olson nor Sullivan are interpreting this situation correctly. The standards for state child support guidelines are found in federal code Title 45, Volume 2, Section 302.56. All they require of state child support guidelines is that a) the state have a formula for determining the amount of child support, and b) that the formula take into account all of an obliged parent's income.
That's it. Federal law does not prohibit additional calculations (such as the actual cost of raising a child) from being used to determine the amount of child support to be paid, nor does the initiative prohibit the amount of income to be used in the calculations.
In short, the initiative is explicitly in compliance with federal standards.
So why is Olson saying that the initiative isn't in compliance? It helps if we follow the money.
The federal funding that the Child Support Enforcement division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services gets is based on the number of dollars that agency collects in child support. The more child support money the division collects, the more federal funding it receives.
The initiative likely would reduce the amount of child support collected in North Dakota by preventing support payments from exceeding the cost of raising the child. Currently, many parents pay hundreds of dollars a month more than they need to because current child support guidelines are based only on income, not the needs of the children.
The bureaucrats down at the child support offices like that because it means more federal dollars for them.
This is the key at the state level, rather than any concern about being out of compliance with federal regulations.
What we need to ask ourselves is this: What's more important: A family law system that's equitable to both parents and does not require child support payments in excess of what is needed? Or, keeping the amount of federal funds the child support agency receives high?
I pick the first one, especially in light of a recent announcement that North Dakota has a half-billion dollar budget surplus.
There is no reason to be sacrificing equality for the sake of some federal dollars right now.
Port runs, North Dakota's most popular political Web log.


VIEWPOINT: State wants to protect revenue stream

By Don Mathis
The forces that are lining up against North Dakota's Shared Parenting Initiative have two things in common: lack of logic and lust for lucre.
For example, Herald columnist Lloyd Omdahl writes, "Dr. Diane Lye said that the single most important determinant of a child's well-being after divorce is living in a household with adequate income" . Does this mean if Dad makes more money than Mom, he should have custody?
How about this one: "Father contact in low-conflict families can be beneficial, but in high-conflict families, it can be harmful." I guess if the ex-wife wants conflict, the ex-husband should just drop out of his kid's life.
In fact, Omdahl and Carol Olson, executive director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services and the author of "Family-law measures would lead to cutoff of federal funds" , both are singing the same tune. They are afraid this initiated measure would jeopardize millions in federal Temporary Aid for Needy Families funds for North Dakota.
The refrain of their song is Omdahl's: "Many custodial parents have had to turn to the government and its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for help." Well, how many: Fifty percent? Seventy percent?
No, 8 percent. According to Olson, the state's child support enforcement program "serves about 60,000 children monthly, and the TANF program ... each month helps financially support about 5,000 qualifying low-income children who live with single parents or other relatives."
While 8 percent qualifies as "many" if you happen to be in that category, there is a much bigger welfare recipient that all of us should know about.
The federal government gives millions of taxpayer dollars to each state so they may keep track of child support. North Dakota's share is $71 million.
How far would those millions go if they went directly to those 5,000 qualifying low-income children?
The North Dakota Department of Human Services is trying to use children to justify its budget. We have child labor laws to prevent exploitation of our children. DHS should be prevented from using kids for cash as well.
Don Mathis is editor of The Fourteen Percenter, a newsletter for noncustodial parents.


VIEWPOINT: How courts discourage shared parenting in N.D.

By John Maguire
On Aug. 14, Herald columnist and former North Dakota Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl treated the citizens of North Dakota to another round of his negative opinion of the shared parenting initiative.
Very simply, the initiative is good for North Dakota. While it's true that most custody agreements are reached between the parents without the need for a court trial, to infer that these arrangements are considered satisfactory by both parties is far from accurate.
Much of the conflict in custody cases is generated by the court's adversarial approach to family matters. By design, this system encourages conflict and discourages cooperation.
Family courts are in desperate need of overhaul. Custody settlements take place under the shadow of existing law and court practices. That noncustodial parents typically see their children only every other weekend and for a few hours one night a week reflects less the visiting parent and their children's desires and more the reality that current law and court practice promote such outcomes.
Neither fathers nor mothers typically create offspring for the purpose of later abandoning them.
The initiative addresses this issue by establishing a framework in which neither party has an incentive to go to court. Far from removing courts from the process, the initiative directs the court to put the appropriate burden of proof for removing a parent from their child's life on the parent who is objecting to the child keeping a substantial relationship with both parents.
Courts should not be in the business of picking winning and losing parents. They should maintain and uphold each parent's interest in their relationship to their children to the maximum extent possible.
When the state oversteps its authority and creates an environment in which fit parents are summarily removed from the lives of their children, isn't it entirely appropriate for citizens to seek a remedy? Isn't it more likely the 17,000 people who signed the petition and the thousands more who will vote for it are acting out of concern and love for their kids and society?
Has the state become so arrogant as to think it knows better how to raise children than those children's own parents?
When the state prepares its fiscal impact statement on the initiative, North Dakotans should be wary of any assessment that ignores the social and economic benefits of shared parenting. Crime, truancy, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration - all strongly are correlated with father absence and single-parent child rearing.
Measures which serve to enhance both parents' participation in kids' lives benefit everyone.
Read the initiative and Omdahl's column again. Then ask yourself: Which one "reeks with anger"?
Maguire is director of communications for the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

VIEWPOINT: Stand up to federal bullying, North Dakota

By Stephen Baskerville
Carol Olson, executive director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services, evidently feels that the intervention of Health and Human Services regional administrator Thomas Sullivan into North Dakota's internal politics constitutes an argument against the shared parenting ballot initiative.
What it truly reveals is an alarming abuse of power and bullying of North Dakotans by the federal government.
Under 18 USC 1913, it is a crime for federal civil servants to lobby legislatures. Lobbying politicizes the civil service and turns it from the people's servant into a taxpayer-funded advocacy group that can suppress citizens' opinions or activities it considers threatening. I would be very surprised if North Dakota does not impose similar restrictions on state officials such as Olson.
So North Dakotans should be very disturbed that federal and state bureaucrats are or seem to be taking sides in a citizens' ballot initiative that threatens their power. Sullivan's undisguised campaign to defeat the initiative with a letter to a state senator probably is illegal and certainly is improper. But further, using federal taxpayers' money as leverage to pressure citizens from exercising their democratic prerogatives vindicates warnings that federal financial muscle is being used to centralize power in dangerously authoritarian ways.
This becomes especially troubling when misinformation and fear tactics are used to intimidate citizens from exercising their democratic rights and protect bureaucratic power. Olson's own opinion piece opposing the referendum provides a very misleading and one-sided evaluation.
The likely impact of prospective legislation normally is evaluated by an agency's legal counsel - without taking sides - and is subject to final interpretation through implementation and court review. Instead, Sullivan issues what amounts to an ultimatum to North Dakota: Passing the initiative "will result in immediate suspension of all federal payments for the state's child support enforcement program. Temporary Aid for Needy Families funding also would be jeopardized."
This is not an advisory opinion. It is a threat. Under 45 CFR 305.61, no penalty can be imposed for noncompliance without a notice. At a minimum, the state would have a year for corrective action before losing any federal funds. Thereafter, the penalties are 1 to 2 percent for the first finding, 2 to 3 percent for the second and 3 to 5 percent for subsequent findings.
States actually have been out of compliance with child support regulations for years. Like other states, North Dakota does not base its guidelines on the cost of raising children within that state, as required by federal law. Yet no state consequently has lost any funding, let alone "all" of it and "immediately."
At no point has anyone demonstrated that Sullivan has the statutory authority to immediately cut off all funds. Threatening to do so with authority he does not have is intimidation. Actually doing so is breaking the law.
Rather than allowing themselves to be intimidated, North Dakotans should be outraged at these pressure tactics by bureaucrats and politicians who are supposed to be the peoples' servants. State referenda exist precisely to use participatory democracy to overcome inaction by politicians, inertia by bureaucrats and power centralized in Washington.
The eyes of the nation will be on North Dakota this fall. Standing up to federal bullying will leave all Americans in North Dakota's debt.
Baskerville is president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.