According to U.S. Custody and Child Support Data, women are awarded primary custody 83% of the time and awarded child support in 94% of the cases, despite the majority of court rulings finding that both parents are fit to provide a loving, caring environment for the children.
The Shared Parenting initiative on the November ballot will put the focus on what is best for the children, rather than what is best for the parents. While it may be common to hear “it’s for the children”, we should practice what we preach. Children deserve equal time with both parents and any fit parent, whether male or female, should not be denied that time.
Throughout decades of child custody decisions in family courts across the United States, Father’s have been disproportionately cut out of the lives of their children. Father’s are every bit as important to a child’s upbringing and emotional health as the mother. Children should grow up with the teachings and positive influence of both parents.
The North Dakota Child Support Enforcement Agency has stated on local radio programs, when discussing the removal of the word “Enforcement” from their title, that the primary reason a woman is awarded custody is because it keeps women off of government assistance programs. Putting aside for a moment the blatant sexism and inequality of such thinking, this is a clear indication that awarding a mother custody has little to do with the child’s best interest and everything to do with government interests. Child Support and Family Court are a big industry with a lot of administrative overhead to feed; a $50 Billion annual industry and the largest case load in the entire United States Court system. It is therefore unsurprising that such an agency or the State Bar would oppose equal parenting time.
A study conducted by Arizona State University (Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 2011) concluded that a majority of the public favored equal parenting time. It is important to note that the results were the same for both male and female participants. The findings indicate that the public majority is not biased against either parent and supports equal parenting time but the public also believes that the legal system is heavily biased.
Just because suchbias has become normalized in family court does not mean we should accept it. A common argument put forth against equal parenting is that men sometimes make bad choices and they should pay the price for it. While it’s true that both men and women make bad choices, why should the man be punished while the woman (i.e., the “bad choice”) is rewarded? It’s an asinine argument that even a small amount of critical thinking can easily dispel.
If both parents are able to provide proper care and love then under no circumstances should either parent – mother or father – be given a second tier status and a minimized role in their children’s upbringing. North Dakota leads the way for the rest of the country financially, in employment, and in energy development. Passing the Equal Parenting measure would allow North Dakota to be at the forefront of the most critical issue of all: Family.