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Vote ‘No’ on Measure 6

By Staff | Oct 3, 2014

Dear Editor,

Measure 6 is a terrible idea. It would require courts to divide children’s time half-and-half between moms and dads, in every case, no matter the circumstances. It suggests that one size fits all and that our current custody law is broken. It is not.

North Dakota’s current law requires courts, in every case, to carefully consider each child’s “best interests,” then to fashion a schedule to serve them.

To identify a child’s best interests, the court must consider many facts, including: both parents’ mental and physical health; their criminal backgrounds; their history with drugs and alcohol; their work hours; their ability to provide; which parent has been the child’s primary caretaker; what kind of living environment each provides; what kind of people each parent spends time with; whether they are alienating; and more.

Measure 6 would replace this case-by-case, child-by-child, family-by-family evaluation with a one-size-its-all approach. It would require judges to assume, rather than think. Its “reasoning” has nothing to do with those children’s interests, everything to do with aggrieved dads’ self-focus.

You be the judge. Here are a few common fact patterns judges regularly see. In each scenario, would you want to provide the child an individualized scheduleor be stuck with Measure 6’s cookie-cutter, halvsies, approach?

Babies and toddlers: Psychologists tell us that babies require a primary parental attachment, that it’s harmful to separate them from their primary parent for more than a few hours at a time. To Measure 6, though, what we know about children’s developmental tolerances is irrelevant.

The paternity case: Census data tells us approximately half of all children are born out-of-wedlock, many times to men who have moved on by the time they’re born. By the time a paternal relationship is legally established, the child has usually been living with mom for over a year, maybe two, often more.

The bad divorce: Psychologists tell us that the single best predictor of how children in equal custody arrangements fare is whether their parents are civil and cooperative, or hostile and uncommunicative, with each other. Well, think about it. People divorce because of relational dysfunction, don’t they?

The primary caretaker: With many couples, one party takes a strong lead in tending kids, while the other gives first priority to career. When those parents live a life based on one taking the primary parenting role, upon separation shouldn’t the kids continue in that parent’s primary care?

When it’s time to vote, don’t be suckered by the attractive phrase “equal parental rights.” This measure tells courts they can’t consider a child’s individual circumstances. It will hurt, not help, children. Vote “no” on Measure 6.

Mike Gjesdahl,

Gjesdahl Law, P.C., Fargo

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