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We had hoped for major changes with the introduction of SB144 & HB253 that we would finally see long sought after reforms to Ohio Family Law. While these bills did not pass (If you want to know why click here), they do show a major change in the way that we address the way custodial rights and visitation is awarded between divorced and never married parents.
While bills of this type are typically referred to as “equal custody” legislation they are more of providing an equal opportunity rather a perceived forced situation as the title implies. This legislation is about assuring that every child has a the maximum time with both fit parents as is strongly suggested by Ohio’s stated Public Policy on how custody decision should be made by judges.
In a review of the latest Child Support Guidelines Report to the General Assembly I found a startling admission that many missed; the average split of parenting time between parents now is 30% to non-custodial parents to 70% towards the custodial parent. When we consider the effects on society caused by the lack of fit parents in the lives of their child, especially fathers, a major question continues to be raised:
Why do we remove fit parents from the lives of children every day?
Bad law will only continue the problems that society faces. Presumptions of shared parenting as some suggest will not solve the problem. The use of the outmoded “Best Interests of the Child” standard will not solve the problems, as that standard is the problem in itself and has failed so many children. It is legally undefined under Ohio law and contrary to Ohio’s own Public Policy on how these decisions should be made.
In reading ORC 3109.401 two statements stick out to me.
(A) The general assembly finds the following:
(1) That the parent and child relationship is of fundamental importance to the welfare of a child, and that the relationship between a child and each parent should be fostered unless inconsistent with the child's best interests;
(e) In apportioning between the parents the daily physical living arrangements of the child and the child's location during legal and school holidays, vacations, and days of special importance, a court should not impose any type of standard schedule unless a standard schedule meets the needs of the child better than any proposed alternative parenting plan.
We need to go back to admissions made within the Child Support Review Council’s Report where they stated that parenting time orders now were dividing time between parents on an average 30-70% split of time. To find the answer as to why, we need look no further than the Parenting Time Guidelines that were developed by the Courts for the Courts and are too commonly in use today. These guidelines can be best described as social engineering that is the root of the problem as they spell out how much time a parent should see their child based on the age of the child.
Ask yourself a question, if these Guidelines are so appropriate for parents whose personal relationship has dissolved, why are the same standards not applied to all parents?
Even the married.
A simple change that corrects the problem and in turn saves the State of Ohio major amounts of money that can well be spent in other areas that would attract business and improve a crumbling infrastructure. A change that is already supported by our public policy statements on children and how the Legislature thought we should aware custody between two fit parents. Bringing the factors for custody determinations of ORC 3109.04 in line with policy will do that and create a consistent set of rules instead of the current undefined standards in use.
We need to reform Ohio’s family laws and so that the mistakes that have harmed so many in the past do not continue. It is time to reintroduce the language contained with last sessions SB144 and move Ohio forward for the benefit of all families and the State of Ohio.
Or is a $10 Billion savings too much common sense to grasp.
I recommend that everyone read the report that was put together on this called “The Case for Family Law Reform”.