Attorney Pushes for Shared Parenting

Determining child custody in the event of a divorce can be a difficult process. A proposed bill this legislative session aims to simplify that process - it's called shared parenting.

Arnold Fleck, a divorce attorney in Bismarck has supported shared parenting for years. The current law allows the judge to determine custody based on the best interest of the child, but Fleck says if a child is only raised by one parent, it could cause problems down the road.

"You get higher suicide rates among the kids, kids that never get happy. Their depression. They have academic problems, addiction problems," said Fleck.

Arnold drafted Senate Bill 13-92 -- the shared parenting bill. This allows for both parents to have at least 35% of custody but aims for 50/50 split.

He added, "The law is going to favor outcomes that are good for the children, unless they can prove those exceptions, the abuse, but they have to give evidence of it. Prove it. It's not just who the best parent is because that standard is wrong for our kids and its always been wrong for our kids."

The bill passed through the house with a 71 to 21 vote. I reached out to a few people who have shown opposition to it and have been unable to receive any comment. However, Senator Kelly Armstrong, the chairman for the judiciary committee that heard the bill recently, expressed a few concerns.

"I have some concerns about the definition of equal including 35%. And I have some trepidation about the presumption as well. I just, we have to get our heads around it. But, as I said, the committee hasn't acted yet. I'm sure we'll have a pretty good committee discussion on it," said Armstrong.

A similar version of this bill was voted on as an initiated measure in 2014. Referred to as the Father's Rights Initiative, it ultimately failed. Once the committee makes it's recommendation, SB 1392 will go to the senate floor.

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