North Dakota Parental Rights Initiative, Measure 6 (2014)

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Measure 6
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Type:State statute
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Divorce and custody
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
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June 10
Measure 1Approveda
November 4
Measure 1 Defeatedd
Measure 2 Approveda
Measure 3 Defeatedd
Measure 4 Defeatedd
Measure 5 Defeatedd
Measure 6 Defeatedd
Measure 7 Defeatedd
Measure 8 Defeatedd
Endorsements
Expenditures

The North Dakota Parental Rights Initiative, Measure 6 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in North Dakota as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated. The measure, upon voter approval, would have created a legal presumption that each parent in a child custody case is fit to parent, unless “clear and convincing evidence” demonstrated otherwise. Furthermore, the measure would have given each parent in a custody case, unless one parent was proven unfit, equal parental rights and responsibilities, parenting time, primary residential responsibility and decision making responsibility over a child.[1]

Measure 6 was also referred to as the Fathers' Rights Initiative.[2]

Election results

North Dakota Measure 6
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No152,00462.09%
Yes 92,807 37.91%

Election results via: North Dakota Secretary of State Office

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text was as follows:[3]

Initiated Statutory Measure No. 6

This initiated measure would amend section 14-09-06.2 of the North Dakota Century Code to create a presumption that each parent is a fit parent and entitled to be awarded equal parental rights and responsibilities by a court unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary; the measure would also provide a definition of equal parenting time.

YES - means you approve the measure summarized above.

NO - means you reject the measure summarized above.[4]

Background

North Dakota Measure 3 was on the ballot in 2006. The measure was defeated by voters. The initiated state statute would have entitled each parent to joint legal and physical custody of a child in a child custody case, unless one parent was declared unfit based on clear and convincing evidence. It would have also required the separated parents to develop a joint parenting plan, something which the 2014 initiative did not require. The defeated measure's election results were as as follows:[5]

  • Yes: 91,225 or 43.59%
  • No: 118,048 or 56.41%

In 2012, Walsh County constituents voted on a similar, but local, measure.[6] The county was the first in the state to vote on a local shared custody-related issue. The measure was designed to establish equal parental rights in situations where parents of a child are separated, unless one is deemed unfit. Mitch Sanderson, who advocated for 2006's Measure 3, was the local initiative's primary sponsor.[7] The following is the approved local measure's election results:[6]

  • Yes: 3,017 or 66.26%
  • No: 1,536 or 33.74%

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) challenged the local measure for usurping state powers since matters related to domestic relations, including child custody, are regulated at the state level.[8][9]

Support


North Dakota Shared Parenting for Kids ad, titled "North Dakota Shared Parenting 1."

The campaign in support of the initiative was led by North Dakota Shared Parenting for Kids.[10]

Supporters

Organizations

  • North Dakota Libertarian Party[11]
  • Lawyers for Shared Parenting[12]
  • Leading Women For Shared Parenting[13]
  • Stand Up For Gus
  • Parenting Rights Institute
  • American Coalition of Fathers and Children (ACFC)
  • Equitable Child Maintenance & Access Society (Alberta)
  • Walk for Lost Kids
  • California Coalitions for Families & Children
  • Common Sense North Dakota For Common Sense North Dakotans
  • A Voice for Men
  • Gentleman’s Forum LIVE Talk Radio
  • Canadian Equal Parenting Council
  • Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition
  • National League of Fathers Inc.
  • Minnesota Dads For Justice
  • Dads on the Air
  • Divorce Corp
  • Operation Rewire
  • Families Civil Liberties Union[14]
  • South Dakota Shared Parenting[15]
  • The Fathers' Rights Movement of Texas[16]
  • The Fathers' Rights Movement of Wisconsin[17]
  • Dads of Wisconsin[18]
  • The Fathers' Rights Movement of North Carolina[19]
  • Fix Family Courts[20]

Businesses

  • Hart Investigations (DC)[13]
  • Sanders Equipment Company, Inc.
  • Tweten's Photography

Individuals

  • Phyllis Schlafly, conservative activist[21]
  • Kiefer Sutherland, actor[12]
  • Jason Patric, actor
  • Arnold Fleck, attorney[13]
  • Kristin Overboe, attorney
  • Craig M. Richie, attorney
  • Daniel Frisk, attorney

Arguments

Jill Bjerke, the initiative's sponsoring committee chairperson, provided the following eleven points in favor of Measure 6.[13]

  • Measure #6 focuses first on what is best for children based on current Social Science Research:
Research Consensus Statement on Co-Parenting After Divorce
Conclusions of the First International Conference on Shared Parenting[22]
  • Measure #6 was written from US Supreme Court Rulings on Parents Rights and supported by the US Constitution.
  • The current Family Law System is a cookie cutter/one-size fits all and Measure #6 would acknowledge individual cases.
  • Our Current Family Law System is purely adversarial by design and Measure #6 will reduce conflict and litigation simply because it would take the fight "children" out of divorce.
  • The Retroactive portion of Measure #6 will benefit loving parents and children who have been separated unjustly in the past.
  • Our current courts are already overloaded with civil cases, this will actually reduce legal battles when parents start out on equal footing.
  • Measure #6 does not force equal parenting on everyone, it simply allows loving, fit parents to be restored a healthy relationship for their children.
  • 110 world experts endorsed shared parenting in family law and said the current system is based on "flawed science."
  • Too many children are growing up without on of their parents; usually the dad.
  • Shared parenting is popular in poll after poll achieving over 70% approval and with equal support of men and women.
  • Lawyers only get paid to draft documents and "argue", so they have a financial incentive to create conflict.

—Jill Bjerke[13]

Rob Port, editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, argued that opponents of the initiative had a financial incentive in it being defeated. He said:

By contrast, opponents of shared parenting only got around to establishing their organization on September 4th of this year according to filings with the Secretary of State’s office. Within a month they had $70,000 in their coffers contributed solely by the State Bar Association of North Dakota and the Family Law section of that same State Bar. Six of the eight members of the executive committee of that organization are lawyers, five of them family attorneys.

That’s no surprise. In state after state, country after country, when shared parenting legislation comes before a house or senate committee, those lining up to speak against it are mostly family attorneys. Why? It’s one of shared parenting’s most important features that it tends to reduce conflict between divorcing parents. That’s been found by social scientists in the United States and Canada and family lawyers obviously know it.

They of course take parental conflict straight to the bank. No family lawyer gets rich doing uncontested divorces, but when parents are at each other’s throats, there are always more motions to file, more hearings to attend, more parenting evaluations to assess, etc. Family lawyers thrive on the very conflict that shared parenting tends to ameliorate. Hence their opposition to it.[4]

—Rob Port[23]

Other arguments in support of Measure 6 included:

  • Jill Bjerke said that contemporary social norms disproportionately favor the mother in child custody battles. She stated, "It's just the norm, right now, for Mom to get custody. And when that happens, Dad is cut out of the children's lives. Fathers are both extremely important to both girls and boys. And we want to have our children grow up with parts of both parents."[24]

Campaign contributions

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of December 3, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $26,850
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $70,000

Supporters had received $26,850 in contributions as of December 3, 2014.[25]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
ND Shared Parenting Initiative $26,850 $17,160
Total $26,850 $17,160

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
Philip Sternberg $17,500
Candor Entertainment LLC $7,500
Arnold Fleck $1,000
Ken Takekoshi $250
Virginia McClure $250
National Coalition of Free Men $200

Opposition

North Dakota Keeping Kids First logo.jpg

The campaign in opposition to the initiative was led by Keeping Kids First.[26]

Opponents

Organizations

  • ND Council on Abused Women’s Services[27]
  • North Dakota Women's Network
  • Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota
  • American Association of University Women
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Family Law Section of the State Bar Association of North Dakota

Arguments

Keeping Kids First developed a number of articles on the group's website detailing arguments against Measure 6. The following quote, from the page titled "Measure 6 - Here Is The Reality," summarized the arguments against the measure:

Measure 6 is focused on the rights of parents as opposed to the current law, which is focused on the best interests of children.

Measure 6 attempts to impose a “one size fits all” solution, ignoring the uniqueness of each family.

Parenting arrangements after divorce should just be left to the parents to determine. If the parents cannot decide then the Court should be able to have the discretion to determine.

There are too many factors in the life of a child for any default position to be prescribed, even just as a starting point.

Imposing a presumption is too radical a change to the existing law and other approaches to enhancing maximum contact have been implemented with considerable success.

Measure 6 proposes an overly simplistic idea of equality rather than considering a result best for the children in a particular family.

Measure 6 does not give parties tools to resolve differences, minimize conflicts and maximize children’s benefits.

Measure 6 will encourage families to engage in lengthy and costly legal battles.

The retroactivity clause of Measure 6 will foster litigation in families with currently settled court orders.

Measure 6 fails to protect the rights of stay-at-home parents who occupied a primary parent role prior to separation.

Equal shared parenting is not advisable in high conflict cases.

Equal shared parenting will significantly reduce the amount of child support received by children for their basic needs.

Variations of equal shared parenting are an option under the current law, so Measure 6 is not needed.

The quality of parenting time is more important than the quantity of parenting time. [4]

Keeping Kids First[28]

Other arguments in opposition to Measure 6 included:

  • Attorney Erica Shively noted that the current statute places a stronger emphasis on children's rights relative to parental rights. She claimed, "[The initiative] puts the focus in the wrong place. Currently, the focus is on children in North Dakota. And, it basically says we need to look at what's best for them, not for the parents. And it changes that focus to whether or not a parent is fit or unfit. There's [sic] many wonderful parents out there where there's not equal residential responsibility because it's not something that works for the child in that scenario."[24]
  • Attorney Lisa Benson, a family law practitioner, issued a similar criticism, saying, "When awarding residential responsibility (physical custody), whether split, equal or primary, the best interests of the children should be paramount, not one parent’s wishes. On its face, the measure gives more weight to one parent’s wishes than what is best for the children."[29]

Campaign contributions

Opponents had received $70,000 in contributions as of December 3, 2014.[30]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Keeping Kids First $70,000 $53,000
Total $70,000 $53,000

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
State Bar Association of North Dakota $50,000
State Bar Association of North Dakota Family Law Section $20,000

Media editorial positions


A Valley News Live discussion between Measure 6 proponent Attorney Arnold Fleck and Measure 6 opponent Attorney Jason McLean.

See also: Endorsements of North Dakota ballot measures, 2014

Support

  • Bismarck Tribune said, "Measure 6 deserves to pass — we support a yes vote. To assume either parent is unfit, at the beginning of a child custody case, is the wrong starting point. Presuming instead that both are on equal footing and fit, unless deemed otherwise, is the right course of action."[31]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in North Dakota

The initiative petition was submitted to the North Dakota Secretary of State on June 6, 2013. The initiative was approved for circulation on June 18, 2013. Supporters were required to submit 13,452 valid signatures by June 18, 2014.[32]

On June 16, 2014, the measure's sponsoring organization submitted about 15,021 signatures to the North Dakota Secretary of State.[33] On July 21, 2014, Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) announced the measure's certification for the November 4, 2014 ballot.[34] The secretary of state verified 14,452 signatures.[35]

Similar measures

See also

BP-Initials-UPDATED.png
Suggest a link

External links

Basic information

Support

Opposition

Additional reading

References

  1. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Initiative Petition to the Secretary of State," accessed June 16, 2014
  2. Washington Post, "Fathers’ rights initiative makes North Dakota ballot," July 23, 2014
  3. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Official Ballot Language for Measures Appearing on the Election Ballot," accessed September 4, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. North Dakota Secretary of State, "S3: Child Support and Custody," accessed June 17, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 North Dakota Secretary of State, "Walsh Election Results," accessed June 17, 2014
  7. Bakken Today, "Election glance: Shared parenting measure on the ballot in Walsh County," October 26, 2012
  8. Connecticut Post, "Advocates of parental rights law submit signatures," June 16, 2014
  9. KXPO, "ND AG's Office Asks Court To Overturn Walsh County's Equal Parenting Initiative," February 14, 2013
  10. North Dakota Shared Parenting for Kids, "Homepage," accessed September 17, 2014
  11. The Pierce County Tribune, "Libertarian Party opposes Measure 1," September 26, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 North Dakota Shared Parenting for Kids, "Endorse," accessed October 4, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Jill Bjerke,” October 12, 2014
  14. Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Gregory T. Roberts,” October 23, 2014
  15. Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Casey Wilson,” October 22, 2014
  16. Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Rustin Wright,” October 22, 2014
  17. Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Benjamin Kain,” October 22, 2014
  18. Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Steve Blake,” October 22, 2014
  19. Kristen Mathews, “E-Mail with Dustin Long,” October 22, 2014
  20. Fix Family Courts, "New Research Proves Opposition to North Dakota Measure 6 (Equal Shared Parenting) is Harmful to Children," accessed October 31, 2014
  21. SayAnythingBlog.com, "Phyllis Schlafly: When Fathers Are Turned Into Visitors Families Suffer," October 15, 2014
  22. Psychology Today, "Research Consensus Statement on Co-Parenting After Divorce," July 28, 2014
  23. SayAnythingBlog.com, "Robert Franklin: “Yes” On Measure 6 Keeps Both Parents In A Child’s Life," October 17, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 KFYR 5, "Group Proposes Parental Rights Initiative," June 16, 2014
  25. North Dakota Secretary of State, "ND Shared Parenting Initiative," accessed October 8, 2014
  26. Keeping Kids First, "Homepage," accessed October 1, 2014
  27. Keeping Kids First, "Coalition Formed to Address Concerns About Shared Parenting Measure on November Ballot," September 15, 2014
  28. Keeping Kids First, "Measure 6 - Here Is The Reality," accessed October 1, 2014
  29. Jamestown Sun, "North Dakota parenting group seeking law changes with petition," June 17, 2014
  30. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Keeping Kids First," accessed October 27, 2014
  31. Bismarck Tribune, "Yes on Measures 2 and 6; no on 8," October 19, 2014
  32. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Time Line for Statutory Initiative Relating to Parental Rights and Responsibilities," June 18, 2013
  33. Bismarck Tribune, "Parental rights petitions turned in," June 16, 2014
  34. The Republic, "North Dakota secretary of state approves parental rights initiated measure for November ballot," July 21, 2014
  35. Jamestown Sun, "Parenting initiative will appear on November ballot," July 21, 2014