North Dakota AG files suit over county’s shared parenting law

North Dakota’s attorney general filed suit this week in Grafton challenging the new and unusual county-wide “shared parenting initiative” passed by Walsh County voters in November and approved by the County Commission in December under its home-rule charter.

Pushed by fathers’ rights advocate Mitch Sanderson, the measure passed last fall — the only one of its kind in the state — says both parents in a divorce have equal parenting and custody rights, given neither is ruled an unfit parent.

Sanderson has fought for such an idea for years and in his own divorce case in Walsh County.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed his civil action as a motion in Sanderson’s divorce case in Walsh County in which he was the defendant and his ex-wife, Cheryl Harlow, was the plaintiff.

Stenehjem argues that the county-wide ordinance usurps state law giving state courts and agencies authority in divorce and custody cases. He argues alternatively that state law on home-rule charters does not grant a county the ability to regulate matters already under the authority of state agencies.

Fargo Forum

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