An arena has been formed on the web and social media – a battle is underway for votes on North Dakota’s Shared Parenting Initiative known as Measure 6.
This measure would institute a presumption that shared parenting should be the norm in child custody court actions where both parents are deemed fit. The wording of the measure is simple enough, and though there are countless studies which state shared parenting decreases conflict and is best for children, ethically questionable opponents of this measure have come out in droves. It is important for us to look into who these opponents are and what their intentions are for blocking this measure.
The State Bar of North Dakota has put $70,000 into defeating the measure. A coalition by the name of Keeping Kids First 2014, with a contact email address of firstname.lastname@example.org (SBAND = State Bar Association of North Dakota), has sprouted-up and created a website and social media page in an attempt to guide the public into thinking that this measure would not be in the best interest of children. The coalition is comprised of attorneys, bar members, and state funded domestic violence program coordinators who’s billable hours and budget allocations are threatened if the measure passes.
The committee members were named, and soon enough they put their money to work to oppose what is really in the best interest of the children.
Committee Members for Keeping Kids First – Coalition Opposing Shared Parenting Initiative
- Paul Schauer, Committee Chair – Custodial Parent
- Bethany Abrams, Dickinson, ND – Attorney
- Alisha Ankers, Fargo, ND – Attorney/Chair: Family Law Section of the State Bar Association of North Dakota
- Kara Helgeson, Jamestown, ND – Attorney
- Michael Hurly, Devils Lake, ND – Attorney
- Robert Fleming, Cavalier, ND – Attorney
- Sandra Kuntz, Dickinson, ND – Attorney
- Jason McLean, Fargo, ND – Attorney/Guardian ad Litem/Parenting Investigator
- Erica Shively, Bismarck, ND – Attorney
- Tony Weiler, Bismarck, ND – Executive Director, North Dakota State Bar Association
- Janelle Moos, Bismarck, ND – Executive Director, North Dakota CAWS (Council on Abused Women’s Services)
- DeAnn Pladson, Fargo, ND – Attorney
Many of these attorneys have been very vocal in their opposition to the measure. Jason McLean, from Gjesdahl Law Office in Fargo, North Dakota, is the face of the coalition; and has appeared on radio shows while also writing guest articles for North Dakota newspapers opposing the measure.
When speaking of his opposition to the measure, Mr. McLean positions himself as if he were an expert in children and parenting; however, Mr. McLean has no children of his own.
Alisha Ankers, Chair of the Family Law Section of SBAND claims, “If there’s one certainty, its that this ballot measure will lead to more litigation, more costs and more fees for lawyers. The only casualty will be children who supporters of this measure are claiming to protect.”
According to Ms. Ankers, the measure, which would allow a child to spend as close to equal time as possible with each fit parent after a separation or divorce, will make children into “casualties”. These scare-tactics and misguided messages are fueling the Keeping Kids First coalition.
In addition to the committee members for Keeping Kids First, more opponents to Measure 6 have voiced themselves, including:
Agencies Against a Shared Parenting Presumption
- American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota
- North Dakota Women’s Network
- Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota
- American Association of University Women
- Family Law Section of the North Dakota State Bar Association
These organizations were likely recruited by the coalition and influenced by the threat to their bottom line. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota has come out in opposition of this measure on their website, citing the opinions of the Keeping Kids First coalition, but they fail to include an objective rebuttal from the other side or site any sources for their claims.
The studies that prove shared parenting is in the best interest of children go ignored by the coalition and their supporters. The opposition pushes their state-run mediation system by making sweeping generalizations about its effectiveness; then, proceeds to cherry-pick specific cases where a shared parenting presumption might be harmful. Every reason to oppose Measure 6 that is given is speculative, misguided or blatantly false.
The opposition claims the measure is a “one-size fits all” solution that is not in the best interest of children, and are beginning to say that a presumption of shared parenting would create situations where conflict increases – Mr. McLean went as far as to state on the Jay Thomas Radio Show that he “would go up another tax bracket if this bill passes”. 
Mr. McLean is making this claim, despite the fact that studies have shown it is the current “winner-take-all” atmosphere of our present system that creates the conflict.
Anyone who is familiar with the family law structure cannot ignore common sense and tell themselves that these attorneys and family law professionals are opposing the measure for honest, ethical reasons… It is a direct threat to their bottom-line.
A shared parenting presumption would dramatically decrease conflict and litigation, rendering family law attorneys necessary for only extremely high conflict cases. Guardian ad Litems and Parenting Investigators would be a thing of the past; as these “experts” are only needed when custody and parenting time are disputed. A shared parenting presumption would decrease the need for domestic violence programs; as conflict over parenting time is a large reason these programs even exist.
In contrast to the amount of attorneys actively opposing Measure 6 through social media, news outlets and other campaigns – other attorneys in the area are divided and many directly disagree with the Keeping Kids First coalition.
In a October 1, 2014 interview, a local Bismark attorney, Arnold Fleck, came out in support of Measure 6: “I have no doubt in my mind that this will be better for the children,” said attorney Arnold Fleck. He went on to state that, “studies indicate that those who are raised in a sole custody situation, one parent primarily raising the child, that those children as adults have only a 30 percent chance of becoming happy as adults. That they seem to be missing something in their lives”. 
Children Need Measure 6!
Shared parenting reduces conflict and sets the stage for children to have appropriate access to each fit parent. Family courts have become the wild-west, and stories of its negligence and injustices range far and wide throughout the country, and even the world.
An epidemic of fatherlessness has lip-service paid to it through government run campaigns such as “Take Time to be a Dad Today”, yet men and women are both systematically torn from their childrens lives, many times for no just reason.
The current system produces a gladiatorial type battle-field that incentivizes conflict and encourages and even rewards people to break families apart. When parents see each-other as enemies, court actions for frivolous issues are filed, and restraining orders coupled with false allegations are encouraged by attorneys.
The system is in need of massive reform – it has become a cesspool of corruption, greed and conflict. When an entire industry profits on the backs of children and families, change is essential for the welfare of our society.
Edward J. Kruk, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, specializing in child and family policy, has published many studies and written many books on shared parenting and its benefits for children. Dr. Kruk recently wrote an article in the National Post which states:
“There is no basis in either law or psychology for choosing between two perfectly adequate parents who are in conflict over parenting arrangements. We support and encourage shared parenting in families where parents are living together, to the point where this has become the typical arrangement in contemporary family life; and there is no reason why such arrangements should not be encouraged and protected when parents live apart.” 
Shared parenting supporters have taken to the web and to the streets to defend shared parenting and children – The Fathers’ Rights Movement suggests you do the same.
North Dakota Shared Parenting Ad Featuring Kiefer Sutherland[youtube id=”BTd01JqiMLY” width=”750″ height=”450″ autoplay=”no” api_params=”” class=””]
Vote YES on Measure 6!
Author: B.J. Kain, Kain & Son Writing Services
B.J. Kain has years of experience in child development and child-care, holding supervisory positions with the YMCA and completing continuing education courses in child development, including child abuse and neglect prevention. He is obtaining a BA in American Studies from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and recently founded his own copywriting business. Read more…
 North Dakota American Civil Liberties Union. Coalition Formed To Address Concerns About Shared Parenting Measure On November Ballot http://www.aclund.org/coalition-formed-to-address-concerns-about-shared-parenting-measure-on-november-ballot.html. Date accessed: 10/7/2014
Edward Kruk, National Post | March 25, 2014 | Last Updated: Mar 24 2:53 PM ET
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