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 Tempest Tracker Pixel for Entry HPRONLINE Tracker Pixel for Entry TAKAPRIL4

Recently in:

After nearly two and a half years since the people of North Dakota voted to pass the Compassionate Care Act into law in the state, medical marijuana is finally available to patients. Only one dispensary is open right now, but seven…

It was an, “aha,” moment, said Jeremy Jensen. A woman had her vehicle towed into the Fix It Forward Auto Care shop in Moorhead. Jensen and fellow Fix It Forward Auto Care co-founder Matt Carlson had the vehicle on a hoist…

Thursday, April 18, 5-9 p.m.Drekker Brewing Company, 1666 1st Ave N, FargoThe folks at Drekker have partnered with a handful of area artists and the Lend A Hand Up program. A program providing help and hope to families facing…

In 2016, the Rand Corportation’s National Defense Research Institute published a year-long study looking at potential consequences for transgender members to serve within the U.S Military. This study looked at seven different…

The Nordic ModelDr. Thea Hunter, a graduate of Columbia University and an adjunct professor of history at a number of elite colleges and universities, recently died at age 63 of extreme capitalism—and asthma—because of lack of…

Cocktail Showdown

​Yo ho ho!

by Sabrina Hornung

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

After three years Jon Beyer aka “Jonny B” has become the face and the beard behind Jonny B’s Brickhouse in Jamestown North Dakota. Besides the largest selection of craft beers between here and Bismarck, wood-fired pizzas and…

By Gary Usseryusseryg@gmail.comFYB. Three letters, three words, well known by the guys who make up Cascades, and anyone who is a fan of the five-man band. When asked what genre best describes their sound, I was bombarded with at…

Harmony Korine keeps a tight grip on his title as one of the most critic/critique-proof filmmakers of recent times with “The Beach Bum,” a sultry companion piece to 2012’s memorable “Spring Breakers.” Not without its own…

Arts

​Hold your head high

by Sabrina Hornung

“I started to look around at state arts council positions because I felt that even though I had never done that, I felt like it would be a really good blend of skills, so I started to look around in 2016. A few jobs came up but I…

Countless examples can be found throughout the history of great art that was only recognized as such after the life of the artist that created it. Such is true of Georges Bizet’s opera "Carmen."  While its reception during his…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

It seems like the threats to North Dakota’s Badlands never cease. Let’s go back and revisit Wylie Bice. He’s the rogue, rich, rancher up in Dunn County, on the eastern edge of the Badlands, who’s built himself a private…