Jason McLean, an attorney with Gjesdahl Law in Fargo, penned a letter in Sunday's Forum regarding HB 1392, the shared parenting bill.
The bill reflects social science evidence, which finds that children's best interests are served when each fit, able and willing parent is involved at least 35 percent of the time with the children. The scientists who publish these outcomes stake their professional reputations on factual interpretation of research data.
The bill states the divorce/child custody process will begin with a presumption of 35-50 percent time with each parent, reflective of the best child outcome research. It's important to understand a presumption does not mean shared parenting is a requirement. The bill attends to situations in which this isn't in the children's best interests, as is written in current law.
McLean takes exception to the word presumption in the bill. Presumption, as defined in Webster's New World College Dictionary: "Law the inference that a fact exists, based on the proved existence of other facts." Seems like using scientific evidence, the children's benefits of spending at least 35 percent of the time with each parent, is a pretty good reference for "other facts."
Having recently witnessed the current divorce process, it is nearly perfectly designed to generate and encourage conflict between divorcing parents, and inflict emotional and financial harm to the parents. In this divorce case, once the process accomplished what it was designed to do, and attorneys and the parental investigator were finished, the two parents now co-parent very well, respectfully and courteously, with the children's best interests above all else. They do so despite the process, not because of it.
This bill changes the divorce focus to the children. In most cases, both parents are fit, able and willing. Divorcing couples will be directed away from battle, and encouraged to understand that each parent should be involved with the children. Attorneys, parental investigators and courts will be guided in the same direction. The incentive to initiate the divorce process with fault-finding and finger-pointing will be redirected to focusing on cooperative parenting. The emotional and financial costs of most divorces will be reduced.
Just as did McLean, I, too, would like to leave readers with two sets of numbers: 15-0 and 71-21. The House Judiciary Committee, having heard the for and against arguments for the bill, including McLean's against argument, recommended "Do Pass" 15-0. The full House of Representatives voted 71-21 to pass the bill. The members of these bodies understood this bill is for the children and the parents. Please lend support and inform your senator you understand that children fare best when both parents are involved.
Kasson lives in Fargo.