North Dakota’s measure 6, on the ballot for November, is an interesting bit of text. It’s official description reads: “This initiated measure would amend section 14-09-06.2 of the North Dakota Century Code to 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; the measure would also provide a definition of equal parenting time.”
The actual amended text of the measure:
1. It is the policy of the State of North Dakota that no requesting biological or adoptive parent shall be denied equal parental rights and responsibilities, equal parenting time, equal primary residential responsibility, and equal decision making responsibility of a child in a custody case. It is the policy of the State of North Dakota to presume
that parents are fit and an award to both parents of equal parental rights and responsibilities, equal parenting time, equal primary residential responsibility, and equal decision making responsibility of a child is in the best interest of the child. The presumption of fitness as a parent shall only be rebutted upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence. The court shall support departures from equal parenting time with written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Fit parents may petition the court for a hearing which the court shall grant to support this statute. The provisions of this section control other provisions of state law that conflict with or are contrary to its provisions…
3. “Equal parenting time” is defined as a rebuttable presumption of approximate and reasonable equal time-sharing of a child with both of the child’s parents or a mutually agreed and signed parenting plan between the parents.
(For space, I clipped all text from the century code that is not being amended. If you’re at all uncertain, I’d recommend reading the entirety of it online.)
In response to the proposed amendment, I haven’t seen anyone argue facts about single parenthood. All I have seen a number of anecdotes about horrible relationships with men and concerns about what this change could mean for kids.
The problem is that the statistics for single parenthood are pretty horrid, unless you’re a feminist who assumes men are evil.
Working off an official government report, here are some stats on single parenthood as it stands. Note that this is nation-wide; if someone has North Dakota specific statistics, I’d love to see them (and be rebutted).
The breakdown: 82% of single parents are mothers; 18% are fathers. Single households are more likely to be headed by a mother than a father at a rate of 4.5 to 1. This single statistic is the reason why so many North Dakotans support Measure 6 right now – virtually everyone knows at least one man who doesn’t get a say in his kids’ lives, doesn’t get to see them regularly, but is paying child support, but how many know a woman in the same situation?
Employment: 76% of single mothers are gainfully employed. 85% of single fathers are gainfully employed. Which ties into…
Poverty: 14.3% of the US population lives in poverty; 30.4% of single mother households, and 18.8% of single father households. But also, tie into…
Welfare: 41% of these single mothers received some form of welfare benefits; 21% of single fathers did the same.
If our goal is to give kids their best chance to succeed (and studies show childhood poverty is a big factor in outcomes), supporting Measure 6 to get more fathers a chance to be involved with their kids is pretty straightforward.
Yes, there are plenty of emotional stories floating around on the subject of Measure 6, but legislation based on anecdote is a poor way to run a state.