Courts in Wadsworth, Medina, and Brunswick have adopted new procedures consistent with changes in Ohio law regarding divorce, annulment and legal separation proceedings where there are children. 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.
Shared Parenting in Wadsworth, Medina, and Brunswick
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:
- When no shared parenting plan is submitted by the parties, or where a submitted plan is rejected by the court, the judge hearing the case shall allocate parent rights and responsibilities primarily to one parent. Included in the order shall be a designation of one parent as the legal custodian with whom the child shall reside and an allocation of the remaining rights and responsibilities, including the obligation to support the child, as between the parents. The order must include a provision for maintaining contact between the nonresidential parent and the child.
- If a shared parenting plan is submitted by one or both of the parents and approved by the court, an order will be issued by the judge implementing the terms of the plan by allocating the parental rights and responsibilities. The order would include provisions for physical and legal care of the child.
Shared parenting gives both parents rights and obligations for the care of a child regardless of with the child is physically residing. Although shared parenting in Wadsworth, Medina, and Brunswick 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 interest of the child.
Factors in Deciding the Best Interest of a Child
Judges are given a great deal of discretion in deciding how to allocate parental rights and responsibilities. The law requires that judges in Medina County consider all relevant factors in deciding what is in the best interest of the child, including:
- The wishes of the parents of the child
- The wishes of the child as expressed in an interview with the judge in chambers
- The interaction and relationship the child has with parents or siblings
- The adjustment of the child its home, school and community
- The physical and mental health of the child and parents
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 interest 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 meet court ordered financial obligations toward a child, a court is prohibited giving preference to a parent because of that parents 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 interest of the child.
Special Concerns in Shared-Parenting Arrangements
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 a court concerns about shared parenting being in a child’s best interest.
Right of First Refusal Clauses in Shared-Parenting Arrangements
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 in Wadsworth, Medina, and Brunswick 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.
Modification of Shared-Parenting Orders
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 Wadsworth, Medina, and Brunswick 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.