I knew that getting Parenting Plans enacted would require an extraordinary effort, and would likely be thought of as ahead of its time, destined for a glass ceiling, but I was truly surprised at the ferocity of the opposition. The organized Family Law Section of the State Bar Association claimed it would increase, not decrease the number of custody battles. The Chief Family Court Judge from the largest county in the state literally became unglued from his seat while testifying that the bill would cost millions and millions of dollars in increased court costs. The women’s groups, particularly the advocates for victims of domestic violence, were certain it would lead to more violence. And the government agency in charge of child support says less, not more, child support would get paid.
The whole story about this hard-fought battle to get Parenting Plans enacted is set-forth in an Appendix to the hard copy of this book. Suffice to say it did finally become law (slightly modified) and is now universally acclaimed by parents, lawyers and judges. Pretty quickly I want to speed ahead to the day I had my second-highest-ever jump for joy. (For my highest-highest leap, read “Can I take your girl for a Spin?”) But first a little more on the art of politics:
In the 1997-1998 biennial session of the legislature, the Senate refused to even hear my Parenting Plans bill, simply based upon who opposed it, rather than based on any understanding of what the bill actually said.
“Okay, you won’t read my bill,” I thought, “Take this Senators!” and I attached my House Bill (with a 110 to 24 vote of my fellow House Members) as an amendment to a Senate Bill going back to the Senate with the court system’s biennial appropriation. Now the Senate at least had to take my amendment (my Parenting Plans bill) up in a conference committee of House & Senate Members, and, if nothing else, maybe I could leverage its getting jettisoned for something. And that worked. The five Conference Committee Senators agreed that if I withdrew my amendment, we would add a one-time appropriation of $75,000 for the Minnesota Supreme Court to conduct a study as to whether I had a good idea or a bad idea.
Miraculously, during the course of the two year study, the mediators and family therapists won out over the lawyers and judges, and, although there was a minority report, the majority of the task force recommended the bill move forward in the best interests of children. It became law in 2001. In 2002 I retired from the Legislature and became Director of Saint Paul’s Housing and Neighborhood Improvement Dept. (Read “Third Time’s The Charm.”) For the next four years I did not practice law, do any divorce cases, and didn’t get a chance to put the law to work myself – and, much to my dismay – it remained so unpopular with lawyers and judges, it was hardly being used. Remember, laws do not execute themselves in this world. For four years, with regards to the judicial system, I felt like an outlier, an outsider, a guy looking in with a glass-ceiling, un-liked by the Powers-That-Be, all based on a reputation (unfair glass ceiling) for being “a father’s rights guy” rather than a champion of children.
Tomorrow: The Glass Ceiling FINALLY Breaks