Courts in Wadsworth, Medina, Brunswick, and across Northeast Ohio have adopted new procedures consistent with changes in Ohio law regarding divorce, annulment, and legal separation proceedings where there are children involved. Shared-parenting arrangements are now preferred over court orders granting sole custody to one parent with a schedule of days and times for visitation by the noncustodial parent.
Section 3109.04 of the Ohio Revised Code authorizes courts in proceedings for a divorce, separation, or annulment where there are children or in disputes involving the distribution of parental rights and responsibilities to allocate those rights and responsibilities in one of two ways:
Shared parenting gives both parents rights and obligations for the care of a child regardless of whom the child is physically residing with. Although shared parenting is the equivalent of joint custody, it does not mean an equal division of rights or obligations. Judges are free to allocate child support, parenting time, and other issues according to what they believe to be in the best interests of the child.
Judges are given a great deal of discretion in deciding how to allocate parental rights and responsibilities.
The law requires that judges consider all relevant factors in deciding what is in the best interest of the child, including:
Other factors that the law allows judges to take into consideration include whether one parent is more likely than the other to abide by court orders pertaining to parenting time and financial obligations. A court might conclude that it is not in the best interests of a child to favor a parent who has failed to obey prior court orders for child support or a parent who has made it difficult for the other parent to enjoy parenting time under previous court orders.
Except in situations where a parent has failed to meet court-ordered financial obligations toward a child, a court is prohibited from giving preference to a parent because of that parent’s superior financial status over the other parent. The court will allocate financial responsibilities, including the payment of child support, between the parents in a manner that the court feels is in the best interests of the child.
Shared parenting only works if the parents are willing to cooperate with each other. The purpose of shared-parenting arrangements is to promote a healthy relationship between parents and their children, but a history of domestic violence or substance abuse might give court concerns about shared parenting being in a child’s best interest.
If a parent under a shared-parenting agreement or order needs a babysitter, some states have laws requiring that the other parent be given the option of watching the child. These so-called “right of first refusal” clauses are not legally mandated in Ohio as they are in Illinois, which was the first state to pass such a law.
Parents are permitted to include a right of first refusal clause in a shared-parenting agreement. Unless Ohio lawmakers follow the lead of Illinois, judges cannot include such clauses without the consent of both parents.
The goal of shared parenting is to foster the continuation of the relationship between children and their parents following separation or the termination of the marriage. The law in Ohio favors stability in court orders affecting parental rights and responsibilities, so courts are prohibited from modifying such orders unless they conclude that a material change has occurred since the order was originally made and the best interests of the child are affected.
If you have questions about shared parenting agreements, contact our parent visitation & shared parenting arrangements attorney at Erb Legal LLC. From our office in Northeast Ohio, we serve clients throughout the area, including Wayne County and Summit County.