Completing the Parent Questionnaire/Information Sheet in Your Divorce
If you are a resident of the State of Ohio and the County of Montgomery, Rule 4.28 of the Local Rules of the Domestic Relations Court, reflects that the “Court requires that all parties in divorce or legal separation cases involving minor children, complete and return to the Court a Parent Questionnaire and Information Sheet prior to the final hearing in the proceeding. What information is addressed by the Parent Questionnaire and Information Sheet?
The Court is making inquiry regarding certain basic information from each party:
A. Personal Information. The Court is seeking information as to the party’s mailing address, telephone number(s), current position of employment, current work schedule, employment history, and name and phone number of the party’s attorney.
How could this information be useful to the Court? The Court would see “red flags” if a party is without current employment as issues would be raised as to child support and spousal support. The Court would be much happier to see that both parties are gainfully employed with decent incomes.
B. Marital History. Have the parties been involved with other separations or divorces? Who left home first? What have been the major problems in the marriage?
If the Court reads that there were major problems include drug and alcohol abuse and/or domestic violence, the Court would be provided with important information as to causative factors in the proceeding.
C. Custody. Is custody of the child or children in dispute? Are both parties seeking sole custody of a child or children or is there a Motion for Shared Parenting? Has a Shared Parenting Plan been filed? How does each party feel about the parenting style of the other party?
If custody is in dispute, the Court is placed on notice that a Guardian ad Litem might be needed and that the case might be more protracted than a case where the parties agree to shared parenting or that one party should be the residential parent and sole custodian of the child.
D. Mediation. The parties are provided with a brochure about the mediation process and each party is asked if he or she would be interested to mediate disputed issues to try to reach resolution or settlement. Montgomery County is very fortunate to have at least two (2) teams of mediators on staff. Magistrate Cozette Snead is the chairperson of the Mediation Department. If either party has questions regarding mediation, he or she is asked to call 937-225-4539.
E. Finances and Child Support. Questions relative to this topic include the following: Is either party on government assistance (welfare or disability)? Has a bankruptcy been filed? Is there a current order for child support and/or spousal support? If so, what is the monthly amount and is the support being paid?
This information is important to the Court as it can glean from the responses whether or not a particular party is following Court Orders. Are the Court’s Orders being respected or, are the Court’s Orders being ignored by the Obligor (party paying the support!)?
F. Health. In this particular section of the Questionnaire, the Court asks the following questions of each party: Does either party have any physical disabilities or impairments? Is either party currently under the care of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist? Is either party on any medications? If yes, what are the medications and what could be the common side effects? Does either party drink alcohol? If yes, what is the alcohol of choice? How often is alcohol consumed and in what amount? Has either party abused alcohol or drugs? If yes to the use of drugs, are the drugs legal and by prescription or are the drugs illicit and illegal?
The responses to these questions are important as the ramifications could affect one’s ability to keep or hold onto a job. The responses could affect whether or not visitation should be supervised and/or monitored. Perhaps one party’s abuse of alcohol or drugs might indicate that visitation should be supervised at Erma’s House.
G. Current Residence. Where does each party reside and with whom does each party reside? Are the parties continuing to reside in the same residence? Has one party moved from the marital property into a parent’s home or the home of a friend?
From the answers to these questions, the Court can try to ascertain how well the parties are getting along with one another or how truly dysfunctional the parties have become in their marital relationship. For example, if Wife has moved in with her boyfriend while the marriage remains in place, Wife may be doing herself a disservice if she then requests spousal support. If she is being supported by a boyfriend, the Court may not be sympathetic to an award of spousal support. If, on the other hand, Wife had to relocate from the marital residence because of perceived violence or threats of violence, spousal support may be very appropriate. Each case is very fact specific in domestic relations proceedings.
H. Children of Current Marriage and Other Children Present in the Home. How many children were born as issue of the marriage? How many other children are present in the home? What are their names and ages? Does either party have temporary or permanent custody of the children? What babysitting or day care arrangements have been made? Do any of the children exhibit physical or emotional problems related to the separation or divorce? Are there any allegations of physical and/or sexual abuse? Have the allegations been substantiated? Have the children ever been abused or neglected? Has Children Services or Juvenile Court been involved with any of the children? Are there any caseworkers or social workers assigned to the case? Do the parties have conflicting parenting styles or philosophies?
Again, if the Court receives affirmative responses to the questions above, especially related to physical or sexual abuse, the Court is placed on notice that the case could be problematic and require additional services and/or referrals to different community agencies. Additionally, the Court could be addressing supervised visitation depending upon the specific allegations presented to the Court.
I. Visitation/Parenting Time. Is there a current order for visitation/parenting time? Does the Father or Mother exercise parenting time on a consistent basis? If not, why not? What amount of time does each party spend with the child? Has either party denied visitation to the other party?
With the responses to these questions, the Court is trying to determine if visitation or parenting time schedules are a problem. And, if parenting time is being denied to a parent, is there any defense for such behavior? For example, if Father shows up for visitation in a “high” or “inebriated” condition, Mother might properly deny the visitation. But, the Court would be seeing “red flags” if visitation was being denied because Father is behind with his child support obligation. It is the policy of the Court not to condone withholding of visitation because an Obligor is behind with child support. The Court truly desires the child to have time and involvement with each parent.
J. Legal Matters. Has either party been convicted of a crime? Does either party have a Civil Protection Order against the other party? Have the parties filed Domestic Violence proceedings? Were the children involved? Were the proceedings dismissed? Do Orders remain intact and in place? Did either party receive injuries in an altercation?
If domestic violence proceedings result in the issuance of Civil Protection Order(s), visitation pick-ups and drop-offs may have to be supervised or occur at a public place such as a police station or fast food restaurant. Or, the place of pick-up or drop-off may be curbside with one party remaining in the car and not approaching the other party’s front door. Obviously, you could not have curbside pick-up or drop-off if the exchange involved and infant or young toddler. Again, each case would be very fact specific. Some parties use friends or relatives to assist with transportation when Civil Protections Orders are in place.
K. Additional Remarks. This section provides either party with additional space to address other issues/problems/concerns which may be relevant to that particular case.
The party completing the Questionnaire/Information Sheet is to execute the document after affirming that the statements made are true to the best of his/her knowledge. The Questionnaire is then returned to the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court, Attention: Parenting Education Department, 301 West Third Street, P.O. Box 972, Dayton, Ohio 45422-2160.
When the Parent Questionnaire is received by the Education Department, they are placed in a Q-File and provided to the Judge assigned to the case. Other documents that could be placed in a Q-File would be Reports of Guardians ad Litem, and/or Psychological Evaluations of the parties. The Q-Files are confidential and are not available to the attorneys. The information in them is not “evidence” but is background information only. The contents of the Q-File are typically reviewed by the assigned Judge or Magistrate prior to any hearings or trials.
Honesty The Best Policy When Completing Parent Questionnaire/Information Sheet
If you have received the Parent Questionnaire from the Court and have questions about how to respond, you can contact the Court or your lawyer. Honesty is the “best policy” in that you want to answer all questions honestly and completely as the custody of your children may hinge upon your answers and the responses may also be helpful in determining the best and safest parenting schedule for your minor child.
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.