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North Dakota Could See Changes to Child Custody - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

North Dakota Could See Changes to Child Custody

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The North Dakota Secretary of State has until July 21, 2014 to decide whether or not a measure written to give any biological or adoptive parent the right to petition the court for equal custody will be on the November ballot. 

If approved by voters, no requesting parent would be "denied equal parenting rights and responsibilities, equal parenting time, equal primary residential responsibility and equal decision making responsibility of a child in a custody case" unless clear and convincing evidence proved them unfit. The measure will use 12 safety and wellness factors to evaluate the other parent.

"I don't know how not having two good parents in your life can be anything but the best interests of kids," says the Sponsoring Committee Chairman Jill Bjerke. 
    
The petition was approved for circulation June 18,2013 and submitted to the secretary of state's office today with 13,521 signatures. 13,452 signatures of qualified North Dakota voters were required. Bjerke says there will be another 1,500 signatures coming to the secretary of state's office in the next few days and the stats support their cause:

"Over 90 percent of custody cases are favored for the mother. That being said, that many fathers are being cut out of childrens' lives," says Bjerke.

Father Brett Garner has three kids he hasn't seen for a number of years. He says yesterday- Father's Day- was a difficult time.

"Yesterday it killed me and I had to work all night. I still got presents from the step kids, but it's still not the same," he says.

Garner was able to be around for the first 5 years of his 16-year-old son's life, but only saw his 9 and 11-year-old daughters when they were born. Now, he doesn't have a mailing address or phone number.

"I've had no contact with them whatsoever," he says.

Garner says if this measure is approved, he'd do whatever he could- including a loan- to fight for equal custody.  

"I think this bill would help parents out who want to be a parent and take responsibility and give them a chance to visit with their kids and have a relationship," he says.

Would you support the measure come November? Why or why not? You can join the conversation on our Facebook page. The full text of the measure is linked to this story.
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