Lawmakers in Ohio are starting to rethink a proposal to split custody of children between divorced parents 50/50. House Bill 14 would immediately establish an equitable parenting arrangement at the start of custody fights, similar to a plan put out last year. Reps. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria) and Marilyn John (R-Shelby), the bill’s authors, claim that updating Ohio’s custody laws will preserve both parents and children’s rights to visitation.
John declared, “We have a winner-loser system where kids are frequently caught in the middle or, worse still, forced to choose between parents or exploited as pawns in a battle. “Our children will continue to lose unless the system changes,” The bill would require Ohio judges to push divorcing parents to present a 50-50 custody plan to the court, along with details about child support and attendance.
In the event of a disagreement, the burden of proof on the parents must be higher than it is now in order to convince the court that equal parenting would not be sufficient. Judges are expected to assume that a 50/50 agreement is sufficient, but if one parent is able to present “clear and convincing” proof to the contrary, the judge may reconsider which parent should have primary custody over the other.
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According to John, the 50/50 split in parenting time will be advantageous to a child’s growth and will encourage parents to negotiate a custody arrangement before engaging in a custody dispute in court. John stated that children reared in single-parent homes without the engagement of the other parent, particularly dads, are most at risk for delinquency, suicide, mental illness, incarceration, and subpar academic achievement. And that only represents the shortlist.
Although Creech claimed that House Bill 508, a similar plan that was submitted last year, had the support of 59 lawmakers from both parties, the idea isn’t without its detractors. Judge James Brown of Franklin County, who is also the vice president of the Ohio Association of Domestic Relations Judges, claimed that the law might do more harm than good, especially for the kids at the core of custody battles.
It’s a flawed effort to address a hypothetical issue, according to Brown. We currently have shared parenting, and when it serves a child’s needs, we have 50-50 orders. We are not opposed to that. Yet by imposing a presumption of equal parenting from the start, he claimed, judges lose their ability to order various outcomes when various situations arise, undermining their ability to act in the best interests of the kid.
The House Bill 14 that is being considered flips that and presumes the parent is at fault, according to Brown. “And that’s an untenable concept because our focus ought to be what’s in the best interest of the child; it shouldn’t be on how we please a parent or what we do for a parent.”
According to Brown, the law also disregards the practical implications of custody agreements. The majority of court-ordered arrangements allow parents shared time, however when taking into account job, transportation, the location of the child’s school, and other circumstances, it is almost hard to divide that time equally.
According to Dr. Maria Houston, executive director of Columbus-based LSS Options, the assumption of 50/50 parenting may be harmful in situations of abuse within the family. The burden of proof could be changed from the lower “preponderance of evidence” level currently in place to the higher “clear and convincing” requirement, which could make it more difficult for victims and survivors of domestic violence to establish that abuse had occurred.
Houston said: “Oftentimes we know that the abuser, even though he’s the father of the kids, could be using the kids as a tool to manipulate or keep abusing the victim. Yet, according to Creech, HB 14 contains sufficient protections to allow for the necessary exclusions to the presumption of equitable parenting.
He argued that the state shouldn’t punish all Ohio children just because there is a chance of abuse. What can we do to help our children’s mental health? Creech enquired of his fellow legislators. Stop stealing kids away from two healthy parents, perhaps, is the first thing we can do.