The Ohio House of Representatives is considering a bill that would make equal parenting time the default in a divorce involving children. The aim of the bill is to protect the best interests of both the parents and their child by avoiding win/lose custody battles.
The proposed legislation
House Bill 14 would overhaul the current child custody laws in the state. Currently, shared parenting arrangements where both parties are the “residential parent” might be ordered if doing so is in the best interests of the child. Shared parenting does not imply a 50/50 split, although that might be a possibility in some situations.
Other times, it might be in the child’s best interests for one party to be the child’s sole residential parent. This involves decision-making rights. The nonresidential parent may be awarded regular visitation with the child.
Under the new legislation, parents would be required to submit to the court a plan for equal parenting time that addresses child custody, child support and school attendance.
If parents cannot agree on a plan, they bear the burden of proving by “clear and convincing evidence” why a 50/50 child custody arrangement is inappropriate in their situation. This burden of proof is higher than the existing burden of proof in child custody cases.
Opposition to the legislation
Not everyone approves of the measure. One judge stated that a mandatory presumption of 50/50 parenting time devests judges of their ability to issue alternative orders when doing so is in the best interests of the child.
They also state the bill is somewhat redundant. Ohio already allows for equal parenting time when it is in the best interests of the child, and they do not oppose that.
In addition, in many cases it is next to impossible for parents to split custody 50/50 due to time and geographic limitations.
Ultimately, those opposed to the bill state it is focusing on the parent’s desires rather than the best interests of the child. It could open the door to exposing a child to an abusive parent. The child’s needs and interests should be the primary focus in any child custody case.