ND Fathers' Rights Part One
A few days ago, I mentioned the oh-so-lovely Family Law Reform Initiative. The comments I have received have been interesting to say the least: nothing seems to bring people out like abortion and fathers. (I suppose mail order brides and Real Dolls would do it to).
Rob of SayAnything took offence, because he felt that I was being too harsh on Fathers' Rights Activists, and suggested I look at the Shared Parenting Initiative. I could understand his frustration: I get very irritated when mainstream feminism gets confused with gender essentialists, so I would not like the fringe version of my philosophy be what was most commonly alluded to.
So, this post will be about two separate organizations: first, the Family Law Reform Initiative, and then the Shared Parenting Initiative.
Flri was started by unsuccessful Libertarian candidate for Ronald Riemer (who was convicted of domestic abuse). The flri has 10 parts to it: some parts are less objectionable than others. I will show the complete text and then my argument (if any) to it.
1. Not withstanding any other state statute or common law, the following inviolate rights are hereby establish for all adults and children of North Dakota, and this subsection shall be self activating upon voter approval, and all rights for children, parents and married persons listed in the North Dakota Century Code shall be hereby enforceable as a private right of action against any person or government official, or the state of North Dakota, in either state or federal court, against whoever denies them these rights.
Translation: Here's what we want to make into law (I'm willing to bet one of these guys is a lawyer).
2. All decisions or actions under state law shall be gender and race neutral and, without exception, follow all state and federal constitutional legal and treaty rights, and any state or local official or court or state funded agency who knowingly discriminates shall enjoy no immunity from either personal criminal prosecution or civil suit, and the statute of limitations on such actions shall be 6 years. Any state or local official found to have discriminated shall also be referred to the proper authority for proceedings to either remove them from office or subject them to recall at the next election.
No problems here. Equal protection under the law.
3. All legal actions that affect any family right to children, home, or property for more then thirty (30) days must be accorded the right to a jury trial. This provision shall be retroactive for ten years. Any party not knowingly wavering a jury trial, may, within two (2) years of the enactment of this measure, bring a new action on the issues of property division, support, or child custody. But, if the jury decides that said new action is clearly frivolous or without merit, that party shall be obligated to pay the costs and attorney fees to the prevailing party. Any decision, finding or judgment by any court affecting any family right shall be solely authored by the presiding judge and shall not be delegated to any no-judicial party.
Okay, here's where it gets interesting. Divorce hearings, alimony hearings, and custody hearings are currently by a judge, and not by a jury. The only real objection I have against this is that a jury trial would be much more expensive, but I'm sure what this group is counting on is that a jury would be more sympathetic to not paying alimony and reduced child support.
4. No child shall be denied a right to either parent, without a showing by clear and convincing evidence that a parent poses a real and immediate threat to said child. No time requirements may be made limiting the right to ask for custody or visitation order modifications. And in a divorce, absent clear and convincing proof of an actual threat to the child, joint and equal physical and legal parenting/custody rights shall be the presumed standard. The parents shall agree on a parenting plan, or if they can not agree to such a plan, then the court must produce such a plan for them. To help the parents/courts draft a parenting plan, Child Protection or some other state agency designated by the governor shall draft, within 6 months after enactment of this measure, and updated every two (2) years thereafter, at least ten (10) generic joint parenting plans as a guideline for separated or divorced parents, as well as ten (10) generic parenting plans where the parents do not have joint and equal physical and legal parenting/custody rights.
Ah, here is where it gets a little bit more interesting: shared parenting presumption as opposed to primary caregiver presumption. This is where any actual debate takes place, and I shall write the longer objection further down.
5. No parent may be denied parental rights to his children based on a domestic violence protection order unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the parent poses a real physical threat to said children. In which case that parent shall be allowed visitation in the least restrictive mode that provides protection to the children. A spouse shall have the right to self-defense or defense of his children in any domestic violence dispute. Nor may any parent or spouse gain legal advantage or property by accusing the other parent of domestic abuse. Any parent, advocate or lawyer making or promoting false accusations of domestic abuse is subject to a civil action for damages, as well as costs and attorney fees. Any official, lawyer or judge who knowingly promotes false or frivolous claims of domestic abuse shall be disbarred for not less then one year. A person accused of domestic abuse must be afforded legal representation. All domestic abuse court files shall be open records. Where a pro se litigant is entitled to an award of attorney fees, he shall be entitled to his opponent’s lawyer hourly rate, nor can the pro se litigant be held to the same technical standard of a lawyer, but he may not use this as an excuse for blatant misconduct.
If you hit your spouse, you are a danger to your kids, end of discussion. This shouldn't be something I think I should have to waste space over, but apparently a lot of people don't seem to understand that if Parent A hits Parent B, a person whom s/he supposedly loves, it wouldn't take to long before Parent A "lashes out" on children. And even if Parent A never touches the children in anger, it is still emotionally distressing to witness your parent hit the other (trust me, I know), and it is traumatic for Parent B to be forced to have to see the abuser time and time again. Not to mention, the laws that this advocates for is a) too harsh and b) would take up too much time. A false accusation is already against the law. Think of the practical applications of this law: what would "knowingly promote frivolous claims of domestic abuse" entail, investigating every domestic violence case that doesn't have enough evidence to convict? This would have expensive, and dangerous consequences to our current legal system
6. In joint and equal physical and legal parenting/custody, neither parent shall be obligated to pay child support to the other. But, in non-joint equal physical and legal parenting/custody, child support shall be no more then half of the cost of caring for a child’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care on an average North Dakota family income as determined by the department of human services, and never more then 25% of the obligor’s actual and normal current taxable income. There shall be no additions for other factors. Nor may the child of divorced parents be entitled to more then a child with married parents, but the support shall be lowered based on the legal or moral needs of the obligor to support himself and other current family members. Child support can only be based on a maximum of a 40 hours work week, and shall not include bonuses, overtime, retirement or one time financial windfalls. The child support obligor shall receive the tax deduction for the supported children. Unless previously contracted for, spousal support shall never be required. Nor shall any obligor ever face jail or loss of other legal rights or benefits for failure to pay a domestic support obligation or debt. Nor shall normal due process and protections be denied for the collection of said obligation or debt. But additional legal/criminal actions may be imposed when it has been proven by clear and convincing evidence that failure to support has resulted in serious child neglect or abuse.
And here is why I think these people just don't want to pay their damn child support. With a presumption of joint custody, and there is no repercussions for domestic violence, that means that you have to be a drug addict not to be able to get custody of your kids. And even if you're a bad parent, the kind who locks their terrified child in the basement, the kind that the child is afraid to speak to without getting hit, the kind that routinely forgets to pick up the child or the kind that makes it impossible to meet any kind of schedule, while the other parent does the bulk of the child rearing are struggling to do the labor of child rearing while trying to make ends meet, you have a clusterfuck that is good for NO ONE, except for maybe the crappy entitled parent.
7. Where child visitation or support is ordered, the courts and the states attorneys must enforce it. Where they deliberately refuse to do so they shall enjoy no immunity from either prosecution or civil suit by the denied parent or affected child. Any state or local official found to have violated these rights shall be referred to the proper authority for proceedings to remove them from office.
No major argument here, just a small quibble: what does he mean by the state attorney must enforce it? That's not really their job. That's kinda a job for law enforcement. So, no, the S.A. shouldn't be able to be sued because you can't pick your kid up on time.
8. Married parties shall be entitled to all property and debts accumulated before, during and after the marriage, and premarital contracts must be enforced under traditional contract law so as to afford each party their full rights. No party shall ever be awarded the premarital or separate property of the other party, and no person shall be obligated to ever pay for the support of another adult human. Unless otherwise contracted for, all savings and pension plans shall be the sole property of the person who has worked or paid into them. And where marital property or documents are ordered exchanged, it must be done within 90 days of the court decree, or the harmed party may ask for a court contempt remedy.
Yeah, no. If you have a pension, your spouse gets half of it, or you had better have been paying for the upkeep of your house. The state has alimony laws because one spouse is supporting the other, and it's not nearly enough (check out how easy it is to get a loan, or a job, if you've been out of the workforce. Not easy at all.)
9. On application for a marriage license, the state shall inform the applying parties of their legal rights and obligations under the marriage laws of North Dakota. The office of the North Dakota Attorney General shall produce this information in a readable form within 3 months after enactment of this measure. Every marrying couple must also agree to a premarital contract at least 60 days prior to marriage. If there are no resulting children/pregnancies resulting from the marriage, then failure to so inform or contract shall make the marriage non-binding at the option of either party if an action for annulment is brought within 2 years of the marriage.
I have no objections to the knowledge of their legal rights before marriage. Too many people get married already, they should know what they're getting into. But, marriage isn't made to have children: marriage is a formal contract of a relationship. So, the two years thing is ridiculous.
10. Because strong families are essential for the well being and happiness of our society, and because of the concern for the ever increasing rate of single parent families and divorce rate, it is hereby establish the state office of Family Advocate. This position shall be elected at each general election. The term of office shall be two (2) years. Candidates for this position shall be a qualified elector of this state and shall be paid $1 per month with no other state benefits other then expenses. The legislature shall budget a minimum of $1,000,000 per year to be used by the Family Advocate for the functions of his office, and these functions may include such things as research, getting public comment, identifying and finding solutions for family problems. Remedial actions could include recommending, submitting and testifying for legislation, performing/advocating public or school educational programs, submitting court briefs, and any other beneficial and effective activity. No Family Advocate shall use this position to advance or advocate his own political, social, or religious agenda, and all his/her public actions must be fair, gender neutral and unbiased. If this office is to be vacant for more then 3 months, the governor shall appoint a qualified interim Family Advocate who shall fill this position until the next general election.
I would have no problem with the family advocate, but I think the rationale that they put out is specious.
Because strong families are essential for the well being and happiness of our societySure, whatever. I'll say that having strong families certainly doesn't HURT anything.
and because of the concern for the ever increasing rate of single parent familiesI don't have any concern about single parenting, except for the fact that it is very restricting financially.
and [concern for the] divorce rateI have no concern for the divorce rate. Divorce, as an institution, is great. It means you get to leave a crappy environment. Divorce means that you get to leave a jackass. Divorce is wonderful! The only reason I'm concerned about the divorce rate is it means that too many people are getting married without thinking about what they're doing. Marriage isn't something one should take lightly (and it also isn't something you should do just because you're horny: another reason why I dislike Christianity, but that's another post entirely).
And I'm not even going to get into their reasons (available under News Briefs and April). [channeling William Shatner]So...many...false...premises...so...much....entitlement[/channeling William Shatner].
So, clearly the flri is a bunch of nutcases. These people make my skin crawl every time I talk to them, when I do talk to them (see Me And the Mormons post).
The Shared Parenting Initiative is out later, as this post is getting lengthy.