January 11, 2003
Representative «FirstName» «LastName»
«HomeCity», «HomeState» «HomeZip»
Dear Representative «LastName»,
As you know, Senate Bill 60 passed out of the Senate last week. This bill is no longer a shared parenting bill. We are concerned.
I believe the opponent's are misleading the legislature and disregarding what is best for the children of separation and divorce in South Dakota and their parents, who have a great impact on their well being.
The members of the South Dakota Coalition for Shared Parenting are a group of ordinary, caring dads, moms, and grandparents who just want to have more responsibility in raising our children and believe our children deserve this. Surprised? I am not, considering how important “family” (apart or together) is in our State. Our laws do not encourage this and continue to pit one parent against the other. The competition inherent in our family laws must end. The incentives for one parent to “get custody” of the children must end.
We recognize there are “bad” parents (mothers and fathers) whose motive is not pure for shared parenting. This is unfortunate. However, we believe the 13 factors listed in this bill address the 5% of parents in South Dakota who are not good and fit parents. A shared parenting bill is for the children of the 95% of parents who are fit and eager to provide for the care of their children. As A.M. Keith, former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court stated, “I rarely had a contested custody case in which both parents weren't good parents and that is why they were contesting custody”.
We understand the original Shared Parenting bill was not perfect. As “grass roots”, ordinary people, we are not experts in writing bills. However, we believe that those who are experts in bill writing can develop the wording so that children have maximized time (as much as practical) with both their parents unless detrimental and that addresses the issue of relocating the children away from the other parent, friends and relatives, providing for common-sense scrutiny by our judges. Despite what some might think, we believe this is not the case in South Dakota at this time. If we did, we would not be in Pierre trying to encourage such a change in our “custody system”. This is what we are looking for.
The SDCSP believes if only one child in South Dakota does not have maximized access to their parents after separation or divorce, because of our perverse "custody system", it is one too many. I have two children myself affected by this system and our members and others across the state have many more. I am confident there are thousands of children in South Dakota over the past years, who have been adversely affected by our State's custody laws and the winner-loser, gender bias mentality prevalent in our court system.
I previously sent you a packet of Shared Parenting information. Please find enclosed additional, hard-copy information for your review and consideration. These include:
Mathis, S.D. (2003) THE TRUTH: FOR THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR CHILDREN - SB 60 - (includes handouts on “money” and Negotiation)
Mathis, S.D. (2003) Why are the South Dakota Standard Guideline Parenting Schedule Considered Outdated?
Walther, C.D. (2000). Wisconsin's Custody, Placement and Paternity Reform Legislation - Part 1. Wisconsin Lawyer - State Bar of Wisconsin. V 73, n 4. (Explains Wisconsin's 2000 Shared Parenting Law - regular occurring, meaningful and maximized)
Kelly, J.B. & Lamb. (2000) Using Child Development Research to Make Appropriate Custody and Access Decisions for Young Children. Family and Conciliation Courts Review V 38, n3.
Freeman, M.B. (2001) Excerpts. Reconnecting the Family: A Need for Sensible Visitation Schedules for Children of Divorce. Whittier Law Review.
Mathis, S.D. (2003) Handouts which address custody laws in other states, a chart summarizing the current default parenting schedule in South Dakota when parents don't both agree, current research on the importance of fathers to children, current research summarizing why shared parenting is beneficial to children and families, Benefits of SB 60 - Shared Parenting bill, and information form the AAML - 1997 Proposed Model Relocation Act.
Mathis, S.D. (2003). Critical Thinking for a Complex Issue - Senate Bill 60:Thinking Outside the Box.
On behalf of a minimum of 300 persons in South Dakota who believe, in a presumption of joint physical custody and a presumed parenting schedule that maximizes the amount of time the child may spend with each parent unless detrimental to the child, I am requesting your active support of current SB 60 with an amendment to Section 1 so that this bill becomes a true "shared parenting" bill and the reinstatement of the original section 6. As a body that passes the laws in our Great State, only you can send a strong message to the Unified Judicial System, the body that interprets and assures the laws are carried out fairly. Only you can mandate:
“The standard guidelines shall reflect a parenting schedule that allows the child to have regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent and that maximizes the amount of time the child may spend with each parent, taking into account geographic separation and accommodations for different households. These guidelines shall provide".
If you have any questions or comments on the information I have provided, please call. Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration of this legislation.
Steven D. Mathis, President
The South Dakota Coalition for Shared Parenting