A national trend among lawmakers looking to reform how child custody is handled during divorce has reached Ohio. A bill announced in late June would create a legal presumption that divorcing parents will share custody of the children at 50-50 or close to it.
State law currently does not impose any presumption of a custody arrangement on family court judges. The primary consideration is the best interests of the children, which most other states also follow. However, a group called the National Parents Organization claims that a majority of Ohio states follow a rule to default to sole custody to one parent and limited visitation time to the other parent when the parents get into a custody dispute during their divorce.
Presuming a range of shared custody
The new bill would instruct judges to start with the presumption that spending somewhere between 35-65 percent of their time living with each parent is in the children’s best interests. If one parent disagrees, they would have to present “clear and convincing evidence” to the judge that another custody arrangement would be better for the kids. As Rep. Rodney Creech, one of the bill’s supporters, put it, creating a split custody presumption would put the burden on each parent that the other is not a good parent, instead of each party having to show that they are fit parents.
Proposals like this are controversial. Critics say they restrict the judge’s ability to tailor a custody plan to the affected children’s individual needs. Supporters say that a shared custody presumption would benefit kids in most cases and would help their parents avoid long legal battles.
Few custody disputes end up in court
Most Ohio couples that are getting divorced negotiate their own child custody plan. But in some cases, working out a plan that satisfies both parents is not possible. That is where a change to the law like the one we have discussed here would come into play.