Tracker Pixel for Entry

Mad dads making the lawyers move

by Rob Port | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Say Anything | October 28th, 2015


The proponents of family law reform in North Dakota are having an impact. After ballot measure efforts in 2006 and 2014 aimed at changing divorce and custody laws managed to get around 40 percent of the vote, the state’s lawyers are taking action to get ahead of the curve.

A task force created by the State Bar Association of North Dakota will convene in November to address ways in which laws governing divorce and child custody can be reformed. The letter sent out to task force members by SBAND President Joseph Wetch, shared with me by one of the invited members, states that the effort is a direct response to the 2014 Measure 6 campaign.

The activists behind the 2006 and 2014 campaigns have good reason to be skeptical of what this group might actually be trying to accomplish. The bar association spent tens of thousands of dollars to oppose both campaigns and resorted to belittling proponents of the measures with pejoratives like “mad dads” or “deadbeat dads.”

When not hurling insults, the lawyers argued that the measures were unnecessary because the state’s existing laws were fair.

A more objective observer might argue that the legal industry is protecting a status quo that is extremely lucrative to them, in that it leaves room for copious litigation between warring couples, and thus a rich harvest of billable hours.

But the fact that SBAND is being forced to at least acknowledge that there may be room for reforms is progress. They were admitting no such thing previously.

Both ballot measure campaigns may have failed, but the volunteer, citizen-driven efforts won enough votes against a neatly orchestrated and well-funded opposition to get some respect.

That’s far from a victory, but the reformers are moving the needle. And it’s a needle that very much needs to be moved. Under current laws the scales of justice have a decided cant to them away from non-custodial parents.

For example, the state will move mountains to enforce child support obligations. Non-payers can have their wages garnished, their tax refunds seized and their hunting and fishing licenses pulled.

Non-payers can see their names listed on an official website as though they were sex offenders. They can even have their driver's licenses taken away and be put in jail, as if that will help them make their payments. And it doesn’t matter why the payments aren’t happening.

Did you lose your job? Did you get cancer and wind up in the hospital? It doesn’t matter.

The custodial parent need not lift a finger to get that enforcement. It happens automatically.

While some of the enforcement measures may be dubious, parents should support their children. But shouldn’t the obligations and responsibilities cut both ways?

Try getting the state to enforce court-mandated visitation time. If a custodial parent chooses, he or she can inhibit or even outright deny visitation time almost with impunity. The only recourse a non-custodial parent has is to pay an attorney and go to court where their relief might hinge on which judge is assigned the case and what mood he or she is in that day.

If you think that sounds unfair, it is, and yet thousands of responsible parents are in that situation right now.

That’s just one example of the need for reform.

And speaking of reform, we ought to consider reforming the group that has been opposing these ballot measures. North Dakota has what’s called a combined bar, which handles both the regulation of the legal industry -- licensing the lawyers and disciplining them when they go astray -- and the public advocacy for that industry.

During the 2014 campaign the SBAND actually used dues money -- payments required of lawyers by state law in order for them to maintain their license to practice -- to pay for their political activities against Measure 6.

Ultimately the group was forced to refund money to their members, but that’s not enough. Official regulatory functions and private advocacy should not mix.

If the lawyers want to fight family law reform to protect their profits, fine, but they shouldn’t get to co-opt official regulatory authority to win those battles.

RECENTLY IN

Say Anything

Tracker Pixel for Entry SkootersPlumbing

Recently in:

FARGO - Hundreds of thousands of women and men, young and old, took to the streets across America on Saturday, raising awareness for issues from women's rights, Black Lives Matter, missing Indigenous women, DACA, immigration…

When I was a young boy of five I was lucky enough to have a black and white TV in our house. I had a lot of friends in those day because I let the whole neighborhood come over on Saturday morning to watch cartoons. I distinctly…

Wednesday, January 24, 6pmFargo Theatre, 314 Broadway NThe very first showing of “Homegrown: From Farm to Fargo,” a half-hour documentary shot, written, edited and produced by mass communication and journalism students at…

Last week I was asked to appear and speak on behalf of Matt Pausch, owner of the Oasis, before the Public Works and Safety Committee in Wahpeton. The Pausches are great people and I will never forget the time I spent at the Oasis.…

Corky had a knee replaced in late December and she has been diligently doing the physical therapy connected with the rehab. Although the operation was done in Fargo, I imagine the procedure would have cost about the same if it had…

Rhombus GuysWhile they may be known locally and throughout the region for their restaurants, which feature over thirty different pizzas, and their recent addition of a brewery in Grand Forks, Rhombus Guys also proudly pour from a…

Do you eat enough vegetables? Almost no one does. The current USDA nutrition guidelines for adults recommend 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables to be eaten daily. Other nutrition sources indicate this number can be upwards of 6 cups of…

No one who has lived in Fargo for any length of time has to be told how bitterly cold it can get here during the winter. As much as we might complain about the cold temperatures, the biting winds, or the copious amounts of snow, we…

Now playing on Netflix Instant Watch, Voyeur is the curious story of strange bedfellows Gay Talese -- the once influential and celebrated journalist -- and Gerald Foos, a creepy peeper who spied on the guests at his hotel,…

High Plains Reader: How did the idea for Daily Trump Cartoon come to you -- what was your call to action?Peter Yuenger: It wasn't really a call to action, It was more of a New Year’s resolution to get back in the habit of drawing…

Smoke starts to seep from the sides of the stage and a rocker’s voice echoes over the crowd: “Are you ready to rock?!”You might think that you’re at a rock concert, if you weren’t seated in a black box theatre. For the…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

“What are some of your favorite bottles of whiskey?” is a question I get asked quite frequently and is often harder to answer than one might think. One of the great rewards of my profession is getting to sample some of the…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.edu“Kissing a man without a beard is like eating an egg without salt.”— Dutch proverb, probably written by a man.“Kissing a man with a beard is like going on a picnic. You don’t mind going…