Olson: Lawyers in North Dakota Protecting Fees, Not Kids

April 20, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Yesterday I reported on an op-ed penned by four North Dakota family lawyers that frankly misrepresented reality.  The four claimed that family lawyers in the state support shared parenting.  They offered no evidence for the proposition, but, more importantly, left out all the evidence that contradicts their claim.  And, as I mentioned, there’s plenty of that evidence.

I went into the fact that the state bar was so opposed to the shared parenting ballot initiative in 2014 that it violated U.S. Supreme Court precedents to do so.  The State Bar Association of North Dakota got sued for its trouble and settled the case without the publicity of a trial.  Needless to say, those facts went unmentioned in the lawyers’ op-ed.

But this year there’s been still more opposition to shared parenting that the excellent Molly Olson reprised in her op-ed in the same newspaper (Grand Forks Herald, 4/15/17).  Amazingly, the four lawyers referred to Olson’s piece in theirs but plainly hoped readers hadn’t seen it and wouldn’t look for it.  That’s because Olson’s article demolishes any pretense that family lawyers in North Dakota have that they are anything but doggedly opposed to shared parenting.

I’ll let Olson explain.

The State Bar Association of North Dakota is a public agency and subject to the North Dakota open records law. An open records request was made to the association to better understand why divorce lawyers oppose shared parenting.

Of course it didn’t occur to the lawyers on the listserv that anyone other else would read their emails.  That makes them altogether more honest and revealing than the nonsense peddled by the four lawyers in their op-ed.

According to emails obtained from the association, their opposition appears to be motivated by ignorance, bigotry and a large dose of financial self-interest.

These emails show that association insiders often tell the Legislature and the public one thing, while saying the opposite among themselves.

The emails also show what some association members really think about legislators and the public that the group claims to serve.

In one email, for example, a member of the association’s family law section refers to members of the Legislature using a word that can’t be printed here.

In other emails, section members make statements that are wild overgeneralizations and contradicted by decades of social science research. One such email claims, "an absent parent who did not contribute to the raising of the child does not have the knowledge or skill to become a parent. Too often the absent parent is more interested in their own life, their job, their activities."

This blatant stereotyping and discrimination is not only deplorable, it hurts children. No person is born with the "knowledge or skill to become a parent," and such knowledge and skills can be obtained at any point in a person’s life.

Clearly, the author is simply unaware of more than 30 years of research, which shows very negative outcomes for children who do not have real relationships with both of their parents. Children spell love T-I-M-E.

Yesterday I mentioned the fact that, contrary to the four lawyers’ claims, not a single bar association anywhere has gone to bat for a shared parenting bill and many have opposed them, despite doing so being a violation of federal law.  And sure enough, on the emails Olson referred to, not a single lawyer had a good word for shared parenting or the shared parenting bill then before the legislature.

In another email, a section member comments on a pro-shared-parenting amendment this way: "No No No No No No! Emphatically, vehemently, and with much cussing, NO!" This emotional, over-the-top reaction suggests the author is not just unaware of the relevant research but may be unable (or unwilling) to understand or accept it.

Really, the lawyers want their readers to believe that that constitutes support for shared parenting.

In another email, lawyers plotted their strategy to oppose this year’s shared parenting bill: under the pretext of supporting family law reform, they would offer an amendment to the pending shared parenting bill, which would gut the bill and actually maintain the status quo. Association insiders wanted to kill any real reform while nonetheless claiming to support a hollow bill that included the words "shared parenting."

As I said before, no family law section of any state bar has ever supported shared parenting and the family law section in North Dakota is no exception.  It’s just the latest in a long line.

In perhaps the most damning email, the association’s executive director acknowledged the group’s opposition at least partially involves self-interest. He said, "I am walking a fine line, as you know, but I want what is best for practitioners, and those who need your help." In other words, at least one element of what he wants is what’s best for lawyers.

That of course is the same executive director I had extensive email contact with in 2014 and who then pretended that SBAND’s expenditure of members’ dues to lobby the legislature in some way didn’t violate Supreme Court precedent.  His unwillingness to accept the obvious got his organization sued in federal court and forced to change its ways, hence his reference to “a fine line.”  Obviously his refusal to obey the law was no cause for any sort of discipline by SBAND, since he’s still in the same job and up to much the same shenanigans. 

But most importantly, Olson is correct; his opposition to the bill was in part or in whole motivated by a desire to protect family lawyers’ fees.  That of course comes at the expense of kids.

Olson has the last word.

The association’s actions speak volumes. Divorce lawyers aren’t protecting children, they’re protecting their own pocket books. The Legislature needs to pass a shared parenting presumption to stop divorce lawyers from continuing to line their pockets at the expense of North Dakota’s children.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#sharedparenting, #NorthDakotaStateBar

One reply on “Olson: Lawyers in North Dakota Protecting Fees, Not Kids”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *