Janet L. Goehle, Attorney at Law
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What happens when a state considers changing parental rights?

Minnesota will have a front row seat as their neighbor to the west, North Dakota, considers a new law aimed at giving any parent the right to equal custody. According to reports, state legislators in North Dakota have obtained enough signatures to ensure that the new law will be on the general ballot in November.

If approved, North Dakota parents could not be denied anything less than equal custody of their child. While this may seem standard for parental rights, it would actually mark a significant shift as the other parent would need to provide clear and convincing evidence that equal rights is not in the best interests of the child.

For instance, in Minnesota, like most states, child custody proceedings seemingly favor the mother. Depending upon the distinction in custody or terms of a parenting plan, a father may be substantively cut out of a kid's life. This new law, which is being considered or has been enacted in some form across the country, would change that. Following a divorce or other separation, parents would be on equal footing unless there was significant evidence that one parent was unfit.

While all of these family law proposals are rooted in good intentions, some laws do not work so well in certain situations. Every family is different, with its own dynamics and inner-workings. As a result, legally mandated presumptions may not apply to everyone. Nevertheless, once a law is on the books, courts will abide by its terms. As a result, local parents could find themselves in a bind.

Source: Valley News, "North Dakota Could See Changes to Child Custody," June 16, 2014

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