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Current Issues in Family Law
In Ohio a shared parenting plan is governed by statute, R.C. Section 3109.04. This applies to both married and unmarried parents. The statute does not favor either parent but makes a determination based on what is in the best interest of the children. By law, the Shared Parenting Plan (SPP), must specify the visitation and holiday schedule, address religious upbringing, schools and child support. Parents are often required to include a clause that the parties must attend mediation prior to filing in court to modify the terms of the agreement.
A good shared parenting plan will attempt to address issues that parents will face as the changing needs of the children. It can be hard to know what the needs will be, but the Plan should recognize that the child is going to want to spend less time with parents and more with their peer group. Often it is best to see your parenting time not as the time you spend with your child, but rather, the time you are responsible for your child, including transportation to and from school, extracurricular activities and ensuring the child is completing their schoolwork.
Shared Parenting allows both parents to have an equal say in decision making. However, this can be difficult if parents are unable to communicate effectively and there is a high level of conflict. In the past, Courts were reluctant to award shared parenting when the couples could not co-parent, but there has been a recent trend to allow parents to Parallel Parent. Parallel parenting is an arrangement in which parents can co-parent by means of disengaging from each other and having limited direct contact. Though to point out, it’s really not co-parenting.
Parallel Parenting often means that each parent is responsible for certain decisions since the parents have shown they cannot work together to come up with a decision and to force the parents to try and work together can have a detrimental on the child. For example, one parent may be permitted to make all medical decisions, while the other parent makes all educational decisions. The benefit is that decisions can be made in a more timely matter and reduces unnecessary conflict.
In a Shared Parenting Plan, both parties have equal access to information regarding the child. However, some parents also equate Shared Parenting to equal time. This is not necessary the case, and may not be reasonable depending on where parents live in relationship to school and the parents work schedule.
What happens if you want to change the terms of the agreement. Most likely you will first need to attend mediation to see if the parents can workout their disagreement. This is always the best solution, as parents will remain some control and are in the best position to know what is in their children’s best interest. If the parents cannot work out an agreement, then the parent asking to modify the Shared Parenting agreement will need to show the court there has been a change of circumstances before proceeding on the Motion to Modify. Once the Court has found there has been a change of circumstance, the Court will move to determine the best interest of the children. However, if a parent is asking to terminate the Shared Parenting Agreement, a finding of change of circumstance is not required and the court will make a decision based only on the best interest of the children. This was recently clarified by the Ohio Supreme Court in October 2020.
Do you need an attorney? Probably not for Mediation, but once the matter is before the Court, parties should consider legal representation.