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Fathers and Families

Money Is More Important Than a Parent
May 9, 2012
Top Story
Money Is More Important Than a Parent
By Don Hubin, Ph.D., Chair, Fathers and Families of Ohio Executive Committee

Don Hubin
Don Hubin
Money is more important than a parent. We don’t express this view by our words, of course. But our actions scream it loudly.

Fathers and Families of Ohio is working with legislators to provide a fast, low-cost, effective way for nonresidential parents to have their court-ordered parenting time enforced. It is a scandal that we have a multi-billion dollar bureaucracy to enforce financial child support orders and, yet, we leave parents whose time with their children is denied on their own, with demonstrably ineffective, but very costly, mechanisms for protecting their relationship with their children.

Despite what we profess to believe, our legal rules and governmental institutions suggest that we believe that dollars are more important to children than parents. There's no other way to explain the shameful way we have ignored children's need for time with both parents when they are living apart.

When parents violate court orders to support their children financially, we have a word for those parents. And we have more than words for them; we have a host of punishments to impose on them: wage garnishment, license suspension, passport denial, interception of tax refunds and workers’ compensation payments, and jail. There is little sympathy for a parent who has the capacity but not the willingness to support his or her children. But, when a parent violates court orders to allow the other parent his or her time with the children, we turn a blind eye. There is no popular derogatory term for such a parent. More importantly, there are no effective measures for dealing with such behavior.

It is not because the behavior is rare. Decades of research have confirmed that this is a common problem. One study found that “40% of mothers reported that they had interfered with the non-custodial father’s visitation on at least one occasion, to punish the ex-spouse.” And it’s not because non-custodial parents find such interference acceptable. A survey commissioned by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and released in 2002 indicated that 87% of child support obligors believe that enforcement of visitation rights (parenting time) is “very important” or “extremely important.” Officials from the Cuyahoga County’s Department of Justice Affairs said 8,941 people walked into their office in 2009 to seek help with visitation rights.

The Ohio Revised Code instructs courts, when determining custody, to take into account which “parent [is] more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights” and Ohio law indicates that it should count against a parent’s bid for custody that he or she has “continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court.”

Tell our legislators that parents are more important than money.

Fathers and Families of Ohio is working with legislators to provide a fast, low-cost, effective way for nonresidential parents to have their court-ordered parenting time enforced.

You can help.

Find your legislators
and call their offices. Please let them know that Ohio’s children need and deserve both parents. To do this, Ohio must implement a fast, low-cost way for nonresidential parents to have their court-ordered parenting time enforced.


Also take a moment to respond to Jeffrey and Andrew Grossman’s recent response to a father seeking to protect his parenting time. Let them know that Fathers and Families of Ohio is working on this issue and Ohio’s children need and deserve both parents.

But what if custody has already been established and a non-custodial parent finds his or her court-ordered time with the children unjustifiably interfered with? What remedy does Ohio law provide? Unlike with the enforcement of child support obligations, there are no administrative remedies; no agency of the government will help to ensure that children have access to their parents. The only legal remedy is to file a contempt motion. This is a time-consuming and very expensive process beyond the resources of many aggrieved parents.

This problem has not gone unnoticed. In 2001, the Ohio Task Force on Family Law and Children, appointed by the Supreme Court, made strong recommendations for measures to correct this oversight in Ohio law. In 2005, the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Children, Families and the Courts reiterated the call for an effective solution to the problem. Fully a decade after these recommendations were first made, nothing has been done.

Nothing has been done by the Supreme Court Advisory Committee charged with implementing the recommendations of the Family Law Task Force. The issue is on the “to do” list of that committee, but it has been put on the back burner and the Committee does not expect even to discuss the issue for at least a year. Nothing has been done by the legislature. Perhaps the legislature is waiting for the Supreme Court Committee to address the issue once again. But this would be a mistake. The Supreme Court Advisory Committee is like the kid in Little League who calls the ball, but doesn’t make a move to catch it.

And it’s not just balls that are dropping. Since 2001, when the Task Force on Family Law identified this problem and recommended strong measures to correct it, approximately 200,000 couples with children have divorced; more than 350,000 children have been involved in these divorces. If, as in other states, 40% of Ohio custodial parents interfere with the other parent’s time with the children to “punish the ex-spouse,” that’s about 140,000 children who have been deprived of their time with one of their parents since the original recommendations were made. Each year we delay, another 14,000 children of divorce are subject to this illegal and indecent deprivation. And, that’s counting only the children of divorcing parents, not the tens of thousands a year whose parents were never married.

Fathers and Families of Ohio is working to promote the greater involvement of divorced and separated fathers in their children’s lives. That requires very significant changes in Ohio law and court practices. But, for a start, the legislature must step up to the plate and provide effective and efficient enforcement tools for parents, wrongfully denied their court-ordered time with their children. We are confident that, in fact, Ohioans believe that parents are even more important than money. We want our actions, and our laws, to speak this truth as loudly as do our words.

Following is the column that ran in The Columbus Dispatch, May 6, 2012. Please respond to attorneys Jeffrey and Andrew Grossman, after you speak with your legislators.

Jeffrey A. and Andrew Grossman
Jeffrey A. and Andrew Grossman
Q: My ex-wife took me to court to get an increase in child support. She did it by mail at no charge to her. The order was back-dated, so I am paying the new amount plus an arrearage.

She isn’t letting me see my kids, and it will cost me at least a $750 retainer fee to hire my lawyer to file a contempt of court. I also have to take off work and prove that she denied me time with the children.

With the support increase, I don’t have the money to pay my lawyer. Does this seem unfair to dads?

A: Although it won’t make you feel much better, we hope we can explain the system so at least you know why you’re angry.

The first point to understand is that the payment of support and the right to see children are only loosely related. A mother preventing a father from seeing their children has nothing to do with the issue of support. You may not withhold support to get even.

Anyone paying child support has the right to initiate a support review through the Child Support Enforcement Agency or, as is often the case, the agency will periodically make a review on its own. This is done to verify that proper support levels are being paid. The arrearage often comes into play because there is a delay from the date the review begins to the actual time of the order being made. If a formal motion was filed and then the delay took place, there is always an arrearage that must be dealt with.

If you have a court order giving you specific times to be with your children, she has no right to refuse. You may file for a finding of contempt and a request for fees if you had hired a lawyer. Or, as people sometimes do, you may go it alone and appear pro se (without a lawyer). We do not recommend negotiating the court system alone.

He probably made use of a public agency that is available to everyone paying or receiving child support. The difficulty is that there is no public agency to handle your case. And, although you may not like it, you do have to prove denial of visitation.

Central Ohio lawyers Jeffrey A. and Andrew Grossman specialize in family-relations law. Send questions for consideration in care of The Dispatch, Life, 34 S. 3rd St., Columbus, OH 43215; or by email. [email protected]

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Fathers and Families is interested in revamping its website and using it to create communities around our issues. Could you volunteer your time, talents, and creativity? Or, could you introduce us to a college or university with talented and creative students ready to tackle a project? If yes, please email me.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rita Fuerst Adams
Executive Director



Mission
Fathers and Families improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting the child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.




Vision
Fathers and Families’ vision is a society in which:
  • Children are happier and more successful because their loving bonds are protected after parental separation or divorce:

  • Children have a natural right to be nurtured and guided by both parents:

  • Society treats fathers and mothers as equally important to the wellbeing of their children:

  • Shared parenting after separation or divorce is the norm:

  • The courts arrange finances after separation or divorce so that both mothers and fathers can afford to house and care for their children and themselves: and

  • Our society understands and respects the essential role of fathers.


Core Principles
Our core principles are:
  • Shared Parenting: Shared parenting protects children’s best interests and the loving bonds children share with both parents after separation or divorce.

  • Parental Equality: Equality between genders has been extended to every corner of American society, with one huge exception: family courts and the related agencies.

  • Respect for Human and Property Rights: The Supreme Court of the United States has found that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children... is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

Fathers and Families
Fathers and Families
PO Box 270760
Boston, Massachusetts 02127-0760
(617) 542-9300
www.fathersandfamilies.org
[email protected]

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