October 31, 2018 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Chair, Ohio Affiliate and Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
National Parents Organization’s groundbreaking study of Ohio’s domestic relations courts’ standard parenting time guidelines has provoked a response for the Ohio Association of Domestic Relations Judges (OADRJ).
Normally, it would be appropriate to thank the judges for reviewing the NPO Ohio Parenting Time Report, judiciously weighing the points made in the report, and thoughtfully responding. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the judges actually read, or at least read carefully, the NPO report. Indeed, there is clear evidence that they didn’t read, or at least didn’t understand, the report.
The most important way in which the OADRJ response demonstrates a misunderstanding of the NPO study is captured in this complaint: “An intrinsic flaw in the NPO report is that there was no review of actual outcomes in any Domestic Relations or Family Court cases in Ohio. … without actual review of actual orders, the conclusions stated in the NPO report are inaccurate, misrepresentative and speculative.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The NPO study was not, and never purported to be, a study of the actual orders issued by Ohio courts. The NPO report clearly stated this: “The Ohio Parenting Time Rule Project is not an evaluation of Ohio counties’ domestic relations courts’ actual patterns of awarding parenting time” (p. 2). It’s hard to make it clearer than this. The report is not an “inaccurate, misrepresentative and speculative” report on actual parenting time orders. It is an accurate, representative, and carefully researched report on county courts’ standard parenting time guidelines.
It would be easy to go on detailing the ways in which the defensive response of the OADRJ misrepresents the NPO report. For example, OADRJ alleges that the NPO report “erroneously assumed that a court automatically adopts its standard parenting order in cases in which both parties participate in a hearing but have not reached agreement on a shared-parenting plan” (it did not!) and that the “underlying goal of the NPO is for Courts to automatically issue an order for equal parenting time between parents upon the filing of a complaint” (it is not!).
But that sort of back-and-forth doesn’t lead us forward. Instead, National Parents Organization would like to work with OADRJ to make progress.
The OADRJ response show a recognition of the importance of determining the actual parenting time outcomes in Ohio’s courts. NPO agrees. But the NPO report explains why this NPO study did not focus on actual court orders: “Courts do not compile records of the frequency with which any given parenting time schedule is ordered. Accordingly, NPO has no means of knowing how frequently courts in any county order a default (or any other) parenting time schedule” (p. 2).
So, while the OADRJ response calls for evidence concerning the actual orders issued by Ohio courts, Ohio domestic relations courts do not compile these records, making it very difficult for citizens to determine the actual behavior of Ohio courts. On October 5, NPO wrote to Judge Paula C. Giulitto, OADRJ President, to invite the Association to work together with NPO to gather and analyze the data concerning the actual pattern of parenting time orders.
There is no feasible way for NPO to conduct this study without the cooperation of Ohio’s domestic relations courts. Together, though, NPO and OADRJ could move forward and determine how our courts are actually resolving disputes concerning parenting time when parents divorce.
Those who truly care about the best interest of children, and are aware of the growing scientific consensus that children’s interests are best served by a presumption of equal parenting when parents divorce, should welcome the opportunity to determine the degree to which actual parenting time orders of Ohio courts conform to what that research recommends.
NPO is still awaiting a response from Judge Giulitto.
Donald C. Hubin, Ph.D. is a member of the National Board of National Parents Organization and the Chair of the Ohio NPO. He is a professor emeritus in the Philosophy Department and Director of the Center for Ethics and Human Values at the Ohio State University.