How often do fathers get custody?North Dakota judges award custody to fathers more often than divorcing couples who decide custody amongst themselves.
By: Janell Cole, The Forum , DL-Online, Worthington Daily Globe
BISMARCK — Opponents of North Dakota’s divorce and custody laws often blame judges and the court system for too seldom awarding custody to fathers.
But state court statistics show judges are award custody to fathers more often than divorcing couples who decide custody amongst themselves.
Between April 1, 2007 and March 31 of this year, 1,927 cases were filed in the state, with 46 percent of them involving minor children. Of that 46 percent – about 886 couples – in 79 percent of the cases the couples agreed on custody before they went to court, a process known as stipulated divorces, while the other 21 percent of custody cases were decided by judges.
Of the stipulated cases, custody was awarded:
-- To the father, 9 percent
-- To the mother, 65 percent
-- Joint custody, 24 percent
-- Other determinations, 2 percent.
Of the cases decided by judges, custody was awarded:
-- To the father, 15 percent
-- To the mother, 56 percent
-- Joint custody, 26 percent
-- Other, 3 percent.
Mitchell Sanderson of Park River, N.D., an activist for fathers’ custody rights, said the statistics don’t make him any less wary of the court system.
“You can’t tell me that only 15 percent of the fathers are fit parents,” he said. “There is nothing positive about the statistics.”
Furthermore, joint custody is a misnomer, he said, because joint legal custody agreed upon by parents does not mean the parents have joint physical custody.
“This happened to me,” Sanderson said. “Your attorney says, ‘You’re not going to win this.’ Joint legal custody sounds good. I stipulated for joint legal custody.”
Only later, he said, do fathers find out it means they have their kids every other weekend and maybe Wednesdays.
“It’s very misleading,” he said.