OUR OPINION: The new and improved Measure 6
North Dakota voters rejected a shared-parenting initiative back in 2006. Now, a new shared-parenting initiative — Measure 6 — is on the November ballot.
What’s the difference between the two initiatives? And has anything else changed?
At first glance, there do seem to be a few key differences between this year’s effort and the 2006 version. And on balance, the differences seem to be in the measure’s favor, boosting the odds (though certainly not to 100 percent) of the measure passing this year.
One difference is that this year’s measure drops a child-support clause that had generated great controversy in 2006. The 2006 proposal declared that child support payments “will not be greater than the actual cost of providing for the basic needs of each child.”
But as critics asked, what constitutes “basic needs”? Is that just food, water and shelter, or something closer to the normal cost of raising a child?
Also, changing the child-care standard jeopardized some $71 million in federal Temporary Aid to Needy Families funds, critics said.
That — plus the fact that no other state had switched over to a shared-parenting system — helped doom the measure, which was rejected by a 56-44 vote.
Those circumstances have changed.
This year’s measure has no child-support provision, as far as we can tell. The ballot language says the measure will create “a presumption that each parent is a fit parent and entitled to be awarded equal parental rights and responsibilities by a court unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary,” and that’s about it.
Here’s another change: A few other states now treat shared parenting more favorably in law, though none go as far as North Dakota would if it passes Measure 6. For example, an Arizona law passed in 2012 “encourages divorced parents to do more joint parenting,” The Associated Press reported.
“The law requires courts to adopt plans that increase as much as possible both parents’ time with a child and forbids judges from giving one parent preference based on the parent’s or child’s gender.”
One other intriguing change: Some 25 people are on the sponsoring committee for this year’s shared-parenting initiative; and judging by a list of names, all 25 are female.
We suspect that was deliberate on the organizers’ part to distance the measure from the “Fathers’ Rights” movement — politically, probably a smart move.
No, the measure’s not a shoo-in for passage. But its sponsors both learned from their 2006 mistakes and are benefitting from a more favorable national climate for shared parenting. Expect a competitive campaign.