Update 6/10/11: Governor Kasich signs HB 121.
Update 6/1/11: HB 121 passes the Ohio Senate, goes to Governor Kasich for his signature. An emergency clause has been attached to the bill, so instead of waiting 90 days for it to become law, it will take effect immediately after it is signed.
Update 5/10/11: HB 121 passes the Ohio House of Representatives.
Update 4/13/11: HB 121 passes Ohio House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Fathers and Families of Ohio supports HB 121, a bill to protect military parents' child custody rights. HB 121, sponsored by Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), is modeled in part on AB 2416, which we helped pass in California last year.
F & F of Ohio Executive Committee Chairman Donald C. Hubin laid out the case for HB 121 in the Columbus Dispatch -- see his op-ed column Custody agreements should survive deployments (4/6/11).
In the Dispatch, Hubin, who is also the Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Ohio State University, writes:
...servicemembers return from serving to find that while they once had a custody arrangement that allowed them to play a meaningful role in their children's lives, the new custody arrangement allows them only a marginal role. To regain their previous custody arrangement, they must engage in costly, time-consuming litigation, which increases conflict and dissipates much of the time and money that they would otherwise be spending on their children...
The bill would create a rebuttable presumption that when a military parent is deployed, upon his or her return, child custody and visitation orders revert to the original order. This protects the crucial role these parents play in their children's lives and helps prevent a military parent from having to re-litigate the case. By reducing unnecessary re-litigation, House Bill 121 eases Ohio's already overburdened family-law court calendars, leading to savings for the state.
In the past, family courts were allowed to consider active military service as a change in circumstances that allows modifications of custody decrees. House Bill 121 would prohibit this.
The bill also would instruct courts to "stay any proceeding pertaining to the allocation or modification of parental rights and responsibilities if a parent who is the subject of the allocation or modification proceeding is unavailable due to active military service." It also directs courts to allow deployed parents to participate and present evidence in any family court proceeding via the internet, video and/or telephone.
More than three dozen states have now passed military-parent child-custody legislation since 2005, including Ohio's House Bill 119 in 2007. Yet current Ohio law fails to address four of the seven commonly identified problems deployed servicemembers face.
No mother or father should ever be disadvantaged in a child-custody or family-court proceeding because he or she serves in the military. With America fighting two wars and the divorce rate among military families running high, Ohio's service members need House Bill 121. And we owe them nothing less.
Read Hubin's full piece here.