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Critical Thinking for a Complex Issue -- Senate Bill 60 “Thinking Outside the Box”
What are the reasons for supporting a bill that disregards “shared parenting” and waters down the relocation portion of the bill?  Are they pure or are they politically or financially motivated?

With a state family law system that continues to believe that one parent is the winner and one parent is the loser after separation or divorce, what steps can I take to change the balance so that both parents - and children can be winners?

In South Dakota, it is estimated that 20 % of children are living without their fathers and this trend is increasing.  What steps can I take to reduce this trend or to encourage the involvement of both fathers and mothers in the development of their children? Is this important to my constituents or me?  Is it something that should wait to be addressed next year?

Do I believe that a child of separation has the right to maximized time with both parent unless detrimental?  What would I consider detrimental?  Am I willing and able to support this goal?

Currently, if a parent files for divorce, their children are generally provided 4 overnights per month and 1 -2 short “visitations” per month with one parent and the remaining time with the other parent, unless parents agree otherwise.  Do I believe this is in the best interest of a child when both parents are fit and loving parents and just want to spend the maximum amount of time with their children, whether parents agree or not?

How will Senate Bill 60 - as amended reduce litigation between parents?  How will it minimize the win-lose situation that permeates our system today?  How will it give the opportunity for both parents to be an active and meaningful part of their children's lives.

Wisconsin just passed a shared parenting law in 2000, which provides equal custody to both parents unless there is a geographical separation concern or a compelling reason.  Other states have similar laws.  Why shouldn't South Dakota have a similar law?  Don't we have better parents in South Dakota?

Do I defend the Constitution of the United States and how do I explain the lack of support for a presumptive equal shared parenting law in South Dakota?  A presumption that believes all parents are fit and able unless proven otherwise.

Do I believe that fathers are as capable of being nurturers to their children as compared to their mothers?

Do I believe that a small or large portion of mothers and fathers are self-serving in their desire to have primary custody of children?

Do I believe it is ok for one parent to take off with the children and move to another location (for economic gain) when that will affect the child's relationship with the other parent?  Would a Judge consider this move in the best interest of the child, all things generally being equal, if this child has an established relationship with his or her extended family, school mates, neighbors, church, etc in that established location.  Isn't this something that the Judge should seriously consider?

Under what circumstances should one parent be permitted to be the custodial parent over the other parent with regard to their children?

What is the worst-case scenario of a shared parenting law and does this bill or other South Dakota statutes cover this

Can we anticipate with some certainty, the benefit of a shared parenting law for children and parents of separation or divorce and what are my priorities in this bill?

Will the implementation of a “Shared Parenting Law” reduce the emotional and financial costs for parents and children of divorce and separation?

Is it important that in states where shared parenting is prevalent, divorce rates go down and compliance with child support goes up.

Have I read the packet of information that was provided by the South Dakota Coalition for Shared Parenting so that I am well-informed on this issue, understand myths and stereotypes that contradict the truth and can discuss this bill in a persuasive manner with other senators or constituents?

Is there a hidden motive for supporting or not supporting the original version of SB60?

Is one parent's desire to move away with the children more important than the other parent's desire to keep the children in the same location - based only upon who is the custodial parent?  Especially when one parent is awarded this because they are the mother.

The state has encountered emotional and complex issues before.  In fact, the Timmy Meldrum case is a perfect example and this was accomplished in last year's session.  Should I consider SB60 to be any different?

Is it important to consider that a meaningful father-child relationship encourages fathers to remain involved in their children's lives by making them feel enfranchised as a parent?

Is it important that Joint custody couples reported less conflict; possibly because both parents could participate in their children's lives equally and not spend the time arguing over childcare decisions?

How important is it to me that ### people from my district and across the state support a presumption of shared parenting in this state?

What would it take for me to support SB 60 as originally written?  What are the protections that are necessary for this bill to pass?

Do I agree that the majority of mothers and fathers in South Dakota, whether married or not, are fit and loving parents to their children?

Do I agree that SB60 will increase the likelihood that parents will work from a basis of cooperation vs. hostility in most cases?

Do I believe that a couple that goes to court on Custody issues does not have the best interest of their children at heart?

Should the “primary caretaker” standard in South Dakota be the sole determinate or primary determinate in establishing a change in the level of custody.  If this is that important, perhaps we should give custody to the day care provider?   Are the non”caretaking” tasks to the family that are generally performed by fathers any less important that what is typically considered the mother's role?  

Are the South Dakota standard guidelines, especially the parenting schedule, based upon the best interest of the child, do they reflect current research and developmental studies and can we make an immediate change in the guidelines.

With such a complex issue, would it be better and more efficient to make an immediate change in the South Dakota standard guidelines so that children can have maximized time with their fit and able parents and take other  family law issues to a group consisting of fair representation from attorneys, judges, child specialists, non-custodial, custodial parents, adults of divorce and young adults of divorce who are directed to “think outside of the box”, considering shared parenting laws in other states and addressing issues in a “family friendly” way?  Issues could include:

Parent Alienation including expanded options for violating a divorce decree
Education on developing a parenting plan
Improving the skills of both parents after separation or divorce while maintaining joint physical custody and maximized time.
Expanding relocation considerations
Establishing “case managers” for “at risk” families of divorce or separation
Changing offensive terms such as visitation, non-custodial, custodial in the law
Etc.

Is it true that a shared parenting plan will reduce the amount of child support either parent is awarded?  Is it important to consider that child support is not alimony, that child support is directly for the child's needs in either home and because parents are equally involved, the financial costs of children will be increasingly shared by both parents (except for clothing, school meals, etc.)?

Do I believe that restricting a parent's amount of time with their children following separation, without a compelling reason, is constitutional?

Do I believe that when we expect and promote both parents to be an equal and active part of their children lives, that most parents will reasonably live up to this goal?

How does our state plan to reduce the correctional population in South Dakota considering that most juveniles and adults in the system do not or did not have a father involved in their lives?

Do I believe the State has the right and duty not to intrude into a divorced family apart any more than an intact family together?

Considering the emotional interaction of children with their parents, should a change in family law primarily take into account the best interest of the child, understanding the importance of both parents in their life.

If we empower parents, put them on equal standing and expect the best, will is likely to happen?

How significant is stability for a child after divorce and shouldn't we be more concerned about consistency in each home, particularly if parents are living within the same area?  Doesn't joint custody improve stability for children and reduce high conflict situations?

Should I expect conflict to be any less in families-apart than in intact families?

Do I believe that a starting point of equal shared parenting is better than the current, 26%/74% ratio of parenting time that is in the Standard Guidelines, if both parents are loving and fit parents?

How can I balance the need of children and parents for a shared parenting arrangement with the desire not to overburden the court system?

Do I believe at separation, the mother should be given primary custody of a child automatically, or should both parents retain their current status of primary custody?

Do I believe the majority of parents seek primary physical custody in order to obtain or avoid child support?

Do I believe the current family law system is equally fair to mothers, fathers and their children?

What are the motives of the proponents or opponents and do they reflect what is better for children and their parents?

Does research and development studies support-maximized overnights for children?

Does the bill adapt to specific situations that vary among families-apart.

Am I aware that “rough and tumble” play that is prevalent in fathers is critically important to a child's emotional, intellectual, language and motor development?  Is this important?

Does current research and developmental studies support the maximum amount of time with each parent after separation with consideration to abuse, neglect, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and the remaining factors in Section 3?

Does SB 60 as originally written or amended, balance the right and need of children to maximize their time with parents, with the rights that are inherent in being a mother or father?
How important is the following statement to me?

We petition the South Dakota Legislature and Governor to pass a law in 2003 that will direct the courts to provide minor children with frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with both their parents and encourage parents to share in the equal rights and responsibilities of rearing their children following separation or divorce.  We believe this law should expressly provide that joint physical custody and substantially equal parenting time is in the best interest of a child unless there is proof that such custody arrangement would be harmful to the child's growth and development.

What is my reaction to this statement below?

“I believe this presumption (in favor of shared parenting) will help settle at least 25 to 30 percent of all child custody cases.  The attorneys will begin to concentrate on how these two parents will parent their children in two separate homes instead of trying to prove who is the better parent.  I rarely had a contested custody case in which both parents weren't good parents and that is why they were contesting custody.  I have been involved in over 1,200 divorces.  This bill is a step in the right direction.”  A.M. Keith, former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court - who, during his years in private practice, was a divorce lawyer.


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