The North Dakota Shared-Parenting Initiative: Trust Parents, Not the System
The weak arguments against North Dakota's November shared-parenting ballot initiative offered up by HHS Executive Director Carol Olson and Grand Forks Herald columnist Lloyd Omdahl offer up the same misleading arguments we have heard for years: that divorce courts work perfectly, the system is all that citizens need, and social services has already saved the world.
They have proven only one thing: you cannot trust the social services apparatchik to do the right thing even where the need is intuitively obvious to everyone not bought by federal windfalls. If they had paid attention, 17,000 citizens in North Dakota would never have found reason to sign the shared-parenting ballot petition.
Carol Olson's position is patently perverse: the only thing that matters is maximizing federal income to the state, even if it means senselessly destroying the lives of children and, indeed, fatherhood itself. She would replace good families and principles with an oppressive village bought by political payoffs. She cares only about maximizing federal revenues, pretending that decreases in state expenditures (and correspondingly federal entitlements) somehow represent a loss to the state.
In support of mass family gentrification, Omdahl pretends that replacing the destructive one size fits all approach with a long-overdue legal standard, requiring North Dakota to normally uphold parental rights in divorce, is somehow misguided.
A wall of writers and activists pinned the tail on this donkey. Dr. Stephen Baskerville, Don Mathis, John Maguire, Mitchell Sanderson, and Rob Port weighed in to prove the state sorely wrong.
While state laws often set forth a theoretical preference for joint custody when parents cooperate, the adversarial nature of the divorce process ensures this cannot happen in the substantive majority of cases. This inures to the financial benefit of bureaucrats and trial lawyers whose power and income multiply by customarily destroying one parent in divorce while leaving the custodial parent and children at the mercy of big government.
Every major study on the divorce proves that children who lack active paternal parenting and socialization do worse than their luckier counterparts. Problems such as teen pregnancy, truancy, suicide, gang involvement, and drug use substantively disappear when children have both parents actively and continuously involved in raising them.
States that order and enforce shared-parenting also benefit from the highest rates of natural child-support compliance: a fact that is anathema to bureaucrats stridently opposing the shared-parenting petition.
Women are often mislead into believing that sole custody provides the best financial outcome after divorce by maximizing the property settlement and child support. This illusion drives irresponsible divorce decisions in the first place and encourages the petitioner's attorney to cause as much conflict as possible to assure the sole custody outcome.
Unfortunately, these traditional divorce court practices only ensure costly and painful litigation by responsible fathers who are astonished that the system would attempt to arbitrarily render them childless.
This perverse, traditional courtroom game conveniently maximizes fees for divorce lawyers, courtroom psychologists and special advocates, maximizes federal funding to fix families broken by the system, leaves families deeply in debt, and destroys the possibility of cooperative parenting permanently. And, where this pre-scripted fight takes place behind closed doors, it is virtually invisible to everyone else.
With shared-parenting, mothers will no longer find themselves burdened with doing it all while begging for free child care and state assistance. Family financial resources will be optimized, children will be far less likely to be damaged, and child-support will finally be reasonably fair. Notably, these benefits are the precise reasons why social services agencies, lawyers, and anti-family politicians oppose the shared-parenting initiative.
The shared parenting initiative will do exactly what most of us non-bureaucrats know is best. It will protect children from bitter custody battles and ensure they do not take place unless a parent is truly unfit.
Assuring natural rights of children and parental rights in divorce will prevent the commonplace systemic wrongs which gave rise to the shared-parenting initiative.
Where history teaches that we cannot trust bureaucrats to reasonably protect parental rights, to shape a divorce system that does not customarily inject disagreement into divorce; and where shared-parenting is proven to assure the best outcomes for children, we must force the enactment of laws that trust parents in the substantial majority of family law cases.