Increasingly, divorced parents are sharing time and responsibility of their children as equally as possible. Laws, however, often don’t keep up with the culture. Legislators have to take it upon themselves – often spurred on by their constituents – to update the laws.
Earlier this year, two Ohio state representatives introduced a bill to make an assumption in the law (known as a “rebuttable presumption”) that divorcing parents will share parenting time and responsibility equally unless doing so would not be in a child’s best interests.
One of the state lawmakers who is sponsoring the bill noted, “Ohio’s laws haven’t changed in decades and our bill takes into account the large and growing body of research that shows the benefits of equal parenting.” He added that the bill creates an “official state policy that ensures children have a continued and meaningful relationship with both parents….”
Parents can (and in many cases do) negotiate a custody agreement on their own, with the help of their legal representatives. It’s typically best when they don’t have to leave such a crucial decision up to a judge who doesn’t know their family. However, often parents can’t agree and need to rely on the court to decide the matter for them.
Evidence would be required that shared parenting isn’t in a child’s best interests
If this bill becomes law, judges would require one or both parents who do not want to split parenting equally to present evidence that an equally shared parenting situation wouldn’t be best for their child. This could be for any number of reasons, such as work schedules, living situations, substance abuse or other issues and more.
Even if the parents reach an agreement on their own, it must be signed off on by a judge. If the law changes, judges will need to rely on it when deciding whether or not to accept the agreement.
Since lawmaking often moves at a glacial pace, the bill is not yet close to being submitted to the governor to sign into law. It’s still in the Ohio General Assembly, and it needs to be passed by both houses.
In the meantime, parents who disagree about how to share parenting time and responsibility still need to be able to make a strong case for themselves. Having experienced legal guidance can help you fight for what’s in your child’s best interests.