For many parents contemplating a divorce or dissolution of their marriage, a primary concern is which parent shall have “custody” of the child or children of the marriage. I shall begin the article by addressing the differences between the two parenting systems in Ohio – “sole custody” and “shared parenting”.
- The parents have different names or titles: In a situation where one parent has “sole custody” of the child/children, that parent is designated as the “residential parent and legal custodian” and the other parent is designated as the “non-residential parent” or the “non-custodial parent”. In a shared parenting situation both parents have the same title. They are both designated as the “residential parent and legal custodian” of the child or children. For school district reasons of residency and tuition, one parent’s residence is typically designated as the residence of the child for school district purposes. The parent whose residence is the residence of the child for school district purposes may have a slight advantage over the other party as he or she has the ability to change residences with the child changing school districts accordingly. For example, in a “shared parenting” arrangement wherein Mother’s residence is the residence of the child for school district purposes, if Mother chooses to move from Beavercreek, Ohio, to Centerville, Ohio, the child’s school district changes from Beavercreek to Centerville without a need to return to Court. Unless, of course, the Father believes the change in school districts is not in the “best interests” of the child or children.
- The parents have different parenting time schedules, also known as visitation schedules: In a situation wherein one parent has “sole custody” of the child or children, the parent who is the “non-residential” or “non-custodial” parent generally has visitation with the child or children on alternate weekends from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Some parents agree that the “non-custodial” parent shall also have overnight visitation on his/her alternate Sundays. The “non-custodial” parent is also granted visitation on one or two weekdays per week for a three (3) hour period of time usually from 5:00 p.m until 8:00 p.m. that same evening. Clearly, the parent who has “sole custody” of the minor child or children has much more time to spend with the child/children of the marriage than the “non-residential” parent. In “shared parenting” arrangements, some parents seek to spend approximately equal time with the child or children of the marriage. This can be arranged by the child or children moving from one parent’s residence to the other parent’s residence each week (usually on a Saturday or Sunday evening). Other parents continue with alternating weekends but having one parent with overnight visitation on three to four nights one week and for two to three nights the following week resulting in each parent having the same number of overnights each month.
- The parents have different child-support obligations: Again, in a situation wherein one parent has “sole custody” of the child(ren), the other parent is designated as the Obligor for child-support purposes. He or she is ordered to pay child support to the “custodial parent” for the benefit of the minor child of the parties pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines adopted by the State of Ohio, or as they may agree. It is my experience in this field that the Obligors, usually Fathers, firmly believe that the child-support obligations are too high and that the Obligees, usually Mothers, firmly believe that the child-support obligations are too low. In situations wherein the parties have “shared parenting” of the minor child(ren), there is a provision in the Child Support Calculation Worksheet for the Obligor’s child-support obligation to be deviated downward depending upon the time the Obligor spends with the child. Accordingly, if Father is the Obligor in a “shared parenting” situation and if he has parenting time with the child or children for 50% of the available parenting time per month, more than likely, he would be entitled to a decrease in his child-support obligation.
- The parents have different decision-making considerations: In a situation wherein one parent has “sole custody” of the minor child or children of the parties, that parent has a major role in decision making. He or she can make the following decisions:
- Who shall be the pediatrician and the dentist for the minor child or children?
- Shall the child or children attend public, private, or parochial schools?
- Who shall be the babysitter or child-care provider for the minor child or children?
- What sports or extra-curricular activities shall the child or children be involved with?
- Shall the minor child or children have braces or counseling?
- Shall the minor child or children attend church and/or participate in religious activities?
- Shall the minor child or children have pierced ears or long or short hair?
In a “shared parenting” situation, the parents should discuss and make mutual decisions regarding the foregoing issues as well as other important decisions which are in the best interest of the children.
Ideally, “shared parenting” certainly works best with parents who respect one another, communicate well, and who both wish to operate under a “shared parenting” arrangement. But not all Ohio Courts take such a narrow view. Some will order “shared parenting” believing it is still in the best interests of the kids even if the parents’ communications are fractured and one party opposes it! It is important to know the Judge’s philosophy on this issue.
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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.