Group Proposes Parental Rights Initiative - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Group Proposes Parental Rights Initiative

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A group of North Dakotans says parents need more rights.

A sponsoring committee for an initiative relating to Parental rights and responsibilities delivered more than 13,500 signatures to Secretary of State Al Jaeger today to try to get the measure placed on the November ballot.

The initiative aims to change the century code.

"It's just the norm, right now, for Mom to get custody. And when that happens, Dad is cut out of the children's lives. Fathers are both extremely important to both girls and boys. And we want to have our children grow up with parts of both parents," says sponsoring committee chairman Jill Bjerke.

The initiative says that all parents should start out as equal and have the same custodial rights.

And unless the parent can prove that the other is unfit, the court should not deviate from that standard.

But not everyone agrees with the initiative.

"It puts the focus in the wrong place. Currently, the focus is on children in North Dakota. And, it basically says we need to look at what's best for them, not for the parents. And it changes that focus to whether or not a parent is fit or unfit. There's many wonderful parents out there where there's not equal residential responsibility because it's not something that works for the child in that scenario," says attorney Erica Shively.

Shivley says the initiative fails to clearly outline what makes a parent unfit.

She is also concerned about parents who choose to re-open their cases.

"It'll essentially be starting over. What that will do to our judicial system, whether they'll be lawyers available to accommodate them, and what that will do to children who've become used to something that their parents have been practicing, maybe, for more than a decade," says Shively.

But one attorney says the current system isn't working.

"There are really no winners. And the children lose in every case where there is a battle. And everything indicates a presumption would be the best," says Arnold Fleck.

Once all the signatures have been verified, the initiative could appear on the November ballot.

The Secretary of State has 35 days to review the signatures to determine whether or not the measure will be placed on the ballot.

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