Opposition to Shared Parenting in MN Shows its Hand

The latest from Minnesota’s effort to establish a presumption of equally shared parenting post divorce or separation doesn’t amount to a lot.  House File 322 now has a companion bill in the Senate that’s gone to the Senate Judiciary Committee for hearings.  That’s a good thing, just not a big thing.

What’s more interesting is this article that spells out some amendments to the bill and also starts to sketch its opposition (Twin Cities Daily Planet, 4/14/11).

But Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) raised concerns about this bill’s possible effect on child support.

Molly Olson, founder of the Center for Parental Responsibility, said the intent of the bill is to only address parenting time.

However, Michael Dittberner, legislative chair of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said that until a few years ago, custody and child support were linked. He said the proposed 45-plus percent parenting time could change the new child support formulas. “I think there was an intent to effect child support.”

Well, the truth of the matter is that, if it’s enacted into law, the bill should have an impact on child support.  That only makes sense.  The bill’s presumption is for each parent to get at least 45.1% parenting time with the child.  That’s compared to 30% or less under current custody arrangements that are usually ordered.

So increased parenting time by Dad should lower child support levels for the good and sufficient reason that, because the child spends more time with him, his costs go up while hers go down.

So it’s interesting that that’s what opponents are hanging their hats on.  To paraphrase their opposition, “We’re against dads having equal contact with their children because moms might not get as much money.”  That’s their position even though, as I showed earlier, more time with Dad should mean lower support levels.

But just because we’re dealing with what they did say, let’s not forget what they didn’t say.  What they didn’t say is anything about child abuse or spousal abuse or domestic violence or bad dads or brutal dads or careless dads.

I don’t know why that is.  Maybe they’re keeping their powder dry or maybe the emperor’s clothes are wearing a bit thin.  Usually the anti-dad crowd makes those misleading claims as mechanically as flipping a switch.

So I’ve got to wonder why they’re not singing the same sad old tune.  Could it be that legislatures have had enough of the false claims that dads – but not moms – hurt their kids? 

Could it be that elected officials now know the truth – that moms do twice the abuse and neglect of children that dads do and about 75% more of the child homicide?  After all, they’d have to do nothing more than go to the website for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families to find out the up-to-date facts.

I’d like to think so, but I’ve got my doubts.  Still, the argument that children should continue to lose their dads via divorce because if they didn’t, Mom wouldn’t get paid as much is a pretty remarkable stance to take.  Let’s just say I’m glad it’s them making the argument and not me.

Interestingly, it vaguely echoes what North Dakota state senators gave as their reason for voting down that state’s recent equally-shared parenting bill.  It seems that, shortly before the vote, they were deluged with calls from family court lawyers and judges saying the bill would make custody decisions more complicated. 

I’ve got my doubts about that; it would seem to have made them easier since the presumption would have applied in most cases.  But it was interesting that, as in Minnesota, the objection was administrative, not substantive.  Again, gone were the complaints by feminist groups about domestic violence .  They were replaced by an altogether new and entirely uninspiring plea that judges and family lawyers shouldn’t be inconvenienced.

This is thin gruel indeed.  The old DV claims, however wrong, at least offered a compelling drama.  What’ll they come up with next?  Maybe “we can’t let dads have access to their children because we’d have to reword the standard order forms.” 

Whatever the case, it’s beginning to look like the anti-dad forces are running out of excuses to keep children from having fully-involved fathers in their lives.

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