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This year (2002) the South Dakota Legislature passed a law which gave the South Dakota Supreme Court the power to establish chld visitation guidelines.  Acting Supreme Court Justice Max Gors presented this bill to the Legislators.  When asked what the criterion for custody status was, he stated. "who makes the meals, who washes the clothes, who changes the diapers".  Justice Gors also noted that these rules do not address shared parenting, "give everyone some rights" and make a lot of people happy.  The following are my editorials published in the respective South Dakota newspapers:

Sioux Falls Argus Leader - August 11, 2001

Visitation Rights

The South Dakota legislature “passed the buck” and gave the Judiciary authority to formalize visitation guidelines which demote parents to “visitor” status, ignore current research, and discourage equal shared parenting.   

Judge Max Gors noted parents can disagree with the rules but this is the schedule most parents get.  He stated primary custody is determined by “who makes the meals, washes the clothes, changes the diapers”.   
 I don't want a label of custodial or noncustodial parent if decided by this gender bias test or “visits” with my children.  Four overnights per month are not enough to maintain a strong bond with my children.  I want to be recognized as an equal parent in raising my children no matter what the agreed household tasks were before separation.  I want the same rights afforded to married parents -- to equally share in the equal physical parenting of my children and not be raised to a higher “Best Interest of the Child” standard.  

In 2001, concerned parents, carrying over 200 petitions of support, presented equal shared parenting legislation.  We were patronized and ignored.   I encourage you to call your legislators, potential legislators and judges in support of this common sense policy.  

Mitchell Daily Republic - July 30, 2002

Lawmakers pass buck on custody

This year our State legislators gave up their obligation to make laws for South Dakotan’s on an important issue – custodial and noncustodial parenting. They passed this authority to the Judiciary. These rules establish a parenting schedule within 30 days after filing for divorce. The criterion for custody status is “who makes the meals, who washes the clothes, who changes the diapers”, as stated by Circuit Judge Max Gors.

Judge Gors also indicated these rules do not address shared parenting, “give everyone some rights” and make a lot of people happy. Clearly Judge Gors, who recently served on the SD Supreme Court and was the co-chairperson for the Governor’s appointed task force on custody and visitation -- condones gender bias, does not support Shared Parenting, believes that parents have to earn the right to be equal parents and feels South Dakotan’s are happy with the rules. I am not, nor are 200-plus individuals who, in 2001, encouraged the legislators to vote for a Shared Parenting bill.

This “passing of the buck” by the legislators for our “family-oriented” State has resulted in parenting rules that were written over 10 years ago and are based on “literature” of the 1980’s. The rules encourage gender bias, diminish a parent and child’s rights, demote a parent to a “visitor” status, disregard current research, and discourage equal parenting of children by both parents.
In general, if you become a separated parent in South Dakota, do not cook, wash clothes, etc. and your spouse becomes angry and ignores your child’s need for a strong bond with both parents, you will be labeled a “noncustodial parent”. Your children will be allowed “visits” every other weekend and 1 or 2 three-hour periods each week (4 overnights per month).

The schedule is more restrictive if you have infants or pre-school children. Is that adequate time to maintain a critically needed, strong relationship with your child?

It is time, before our children become parents, to enact a law in South Dakota, similar to other states, that provides equal physical custody (responsible shared parenting), at the onset of separation, unless proven harmful to a child. It is fundamental for our legislators to reassume their duty to make Domestic law for the people they represent and not pass this responsibility to another branch of state government. I encourage you to let your legislators and judges know what you think.

South Dakota Mail (Plankinton)

Letter to the Editor:

This year, the South Dakota legislature gave the SD Judiciary authority to formalize custody and visitation rules. These rules demote a parent to a “visitor” status, ignore current research, and discourage equal shared parenting. Circuit Judge Max Gors, who recently served on the South Dakota Supreme Court and was the co-chairperson for the Governor's appointed task force on custody and visitation, noted that parents can disagree with the rules but warned this is the parenting schedule most parents get anyway and the losing party will be responsible for attorney fees and costs. Judge Gors stated that the primary custodial parent after separation is determined by “who makes the meals, washes the clothes, changes the diapers” and believes South Dakotan’s are happy with the rules. Is something wrong here?

Happy? NO! I don’t want a label of custodial or noncustodial parent, especially if decided by the gender bias test stated above. I don’t want to be a “visitor” in my children’s lives. I do not believe that 4 overnights or less per month is sufficient to maintain and develop a strong, healthy bond with my children. I want to be recognized as an equal parent in raising my children no matter what the agreed household tasks were before separation. I also want the same rights as afforded to married parents -- to equally share in the physical parenting of my children on an equal basis and not be raised to a higher “Best Interest of the Child” standard.

In 2001, concerned parents, carrying over 200 petitions of support, presented the following shared parenting legislation. It did not pass out of the House Affairs committee. I encourage you to call your legislators, potential legislators and judges in support of this common sense policy:
“It is the policy of this state to assure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents, to encourage parents to act in the best interests of their children, and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children following separation or divorce. To effectuate this policy, if requested by a parent, the court shall provide substantially equal access to any minor child at a hearing for temporary custody and in the final decree, unless the court finds that such shared parenting would be detrimental to the child. The burden of proof that a shared parenting relationship would be detrimental to the child is upon the parent opposing a shared parenting relationship”.


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