February 11, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

After years of fighting to convince state legislatures to alter their child custody and parenting time laws to be more equal and serve kids better, we now know that judges can just do that themselves. The judges of Tuscarawas County, Ohio have taken a huge step toward equal parenting. They’ve issued a new Standard Parenting Order with which all “parents must comply.”

And what do you know? For kids over the age of three, parenting time is split almost exactly evenly. If my math is correct, each month Parent 1 gets 16 days and Parent 2 gets the rest. That’s about as even as it gets. From now on in Tuscarawas County, unless two parents come up with their own plan or one is deemed unfit, violent, abusive, etc., they’ll have equal time with their kids. This is no legal presumption, it’s an order. The parents must comply, and so must the courts.

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

What led the judges to remake their standard order, I don’t know, but the preamble to the order offers a hint.

Based upon the Court’s consideration of the best interests of the child(ren), as set forth in the Judgment Entry which incorporates this document, the parents shall comply with the following Standard Parenting Order and Rules Governing Companionship Time.

It’s almost as if someone told them that the best interests of children are generally served by maintaining meaningful time with each parent following divorce, i.e. the same message NPO has been delivering for years. But however it came about, the judges got the matter basically right. That’s a lot more than we can say for the Ohio Legislature that, in years past, has been about as recalcitrant on the issues of custody and parenting time as any I know of.

Now, the Standard Parenting Order isn’t perfect. Take a look at the link and you’ll see that it’s far more complicated than necessary. Whatever happened to one week with Mom and the next with Dad? If the two don’t get along, have Mom drop the kids at school on, say, Friday morning and have Dad pick them up on Friday afternoon. Next Friday Dad and Mom reverse roles. Neither so much as sets eyes on the other. So the new SPO could be simpler and less taxing on the children.

Then there’s the problem of children under the age of three. Clearly, the judges have been taught lessons provided by McIntosh and Tornello, probably via the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). They’re still shouting to whoever will listen that there are problems when very young children have overnights with Dad. As I detailed over several posts last week, the consensus of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of overnights roundly reject that notion.

Tuscarawas County’s SPO gives Dad zero overnights within the first six months of his child’s life and only one per week thereafter until the child turns three. The state of the science says that’s not good for the child, either prior to age three or after.

On that topic, the judges need an education.

But otherwise, they’re giving an education to the rest of Ohio’s judges who rule on custody and parenting time issues. They’ve done the clearly right thing. They’ve equalized Mom and Dad in the post-divorce lives of their kids.

If that’s not a ray of light in dark spaces, I don’t know what is.

 

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