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Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications, Published August 28 2012

Walsh County to vote on shared-parenting measure

GRAND FORKS – Walsh County voters will be the first in the state to vote on a countywide shared-parenting initiative when they go to the polls in November.

County Auditor Sharon Kinsala said she has verified 787 of more than 800 signatures on the petition submitted by Mitch Sanderson, a Park River resident. A total of 742 signatures were required to place the measure on the ballot.

The auditor said the next task is to review wording of the measure, along with State’s Attorney Barb Whelan. She faces a Sept. 7 deadline to get ballots to the printer.

The measure, if passed, would establish equal parental rights if the couple is divorced or separated, as long as neither parent is legally determined as unfit to be a parent.

Sanderson is a former Grand Forks resident who authored and was the main promoter of Measure 3, a similar statewide ballot initiative in 2006. Measure 3 lost by 43-57 percent.

Under Measure 3, divorcing parents would be assumed to have joint legal and physical custody of their children, unless one parent can prove in court that the other parent is unfit.

Sanderson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

But in a recent report in the Walsh County Record, he said that if Walsh County passes the initiative, he believes other counties would follow the action.

Kevin Bonham writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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