On July 1, 2011, the Domestic Relations Court of Montgomery County, Ohio adopted a “new” and “revised” Standard Order of Parenting Time, previously known as the Standard Order of Visitation. Over the years, our elected officials in Columbus, Ohio have chosen to “rename” terms frequently used in the Domestic Relations Court. The phrase “parenting time” replaces the older word of “visitation”, and, the term “parental rights and responsibilities” replaces the older word of “custody”. It should be noted that with each change in legislation, the older or former terms have been replaced with longer names or phrases!
I have practiced Family Law for over twenty years. Until recently, the Standard Order of Parenting Time, fka Standard Order of Visitation, provided for the non-custodial or non-residential parent to have five (5) weeks (35 days) of visitation or parenting time each summer. Additionally, if the non-residential parent submitted to the custodial parent his/her request for summer parenting time between the dates of March 1 and April 1 of each year, the non-custodial parent was to have preference as to the summer parenting time schedule.
The most striking change in the “new” Standard Order of Parenting Time involves Item 8 entitled “Summer Vacation”. Instead of the five weeks (35 days) of visitation/parenting time, the non-custodial parent shall have parenting time in alternating one week increments beginning the first Friday after the last day of school. Each one week of parenting time shall commence at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and continue until the following Friday at 6:00 p.m.
Mid-week (usually Wednesday) and alternating weekend parenting time are suspended during the summer vacation period. Child support shall not be reduced or suspended during this three (3) month period of time even though the non-residential parent is equally dividing the Summer Vacation.
What caused the Court to change or modify the former Standard Order of Parenting Time? Michael Howley, Legal Administrator of the Court, advised me that the Court made the change because so many non-residential parents were “tacking on” the weeks of Summer vacation to their normal alternating weekends in an effort to get more than five (5) weeks of parenting time. Is the new schedule working for parents? Michael Howley advised me it was too early to tell as the Court has not had sufficient time to evaluate the “new” Standard Order.
To test how this new allocation of summer parenting time will work for next year, I selected Monday, June 4th as the last day of school. Accordingly, the non-residential parent (usually Father) would commence his first one week period of visitation at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, June 8, 2012. That one week period of parenting time would end or conclude at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, June 15, 2012. The second week for the non-custodial parent would then begin at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, June 22, 2012. I then selected August 21, 2012 to be the first day of school for the next calendar year. This results in the summer visitation schedule to end on Friday, August 17, 2012 (the last Friday before the commencement of school). I then counted the total number of weeks of parenting time for the non-custodial parent and was surprised to find the number of weeks to be five (5) as contemplated by the “former” or “old” Standard Order of Parenting Time.
What other changes are reflected or noted in the “new” Standard Order of Parenting Time?
- The visitation periods for Holidays and Mother’s/Father’s Day shall conclude at 9:00 p.m. rather than 6:00 p.m. providing the non-custodial parent with an additional three (3) hour period of time. (I can already hear complaints from Mothers of young children arguing that 9:00 p.m. is “too late” to be getting home and commencing the bedtime routine!)
- Make-up visitation shall only be scheduled if “requested” by the non-custodial parent. The “old” Standard Order simply mandated that all make-up parenting time shall be rescheduled and exercised within sixty (60) days.
- Non-emergency phone calls should be limited to one call per day before 8:00 p.m. (EST).
- The second paragraph of the “old” Standard Order regarding actions to be taken by the parents if a child indicates a strong opposition to being with the other parent has been replaced with one sentence– Each parent has a duty to facilitate and encourage the other’s parenting time with the child or children.
- That when there are conflicting dates, this is the order of priority: Children’s birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Holidays, Summer/Breaks, Weekends, Weekdays. In the old Order, Holidays came before birthdays & Mother’s/Father’s Day.
What remains the same with the “new” Standard Order of Parenting Time?
- Parents are encouraged to agree on a fair written parenting time schedule that fits their circumstances and their children’s lives.
- The Standard Order is to be followed as a schedule when the parents cannot agree upon a schedule between themselves.
As with all child-related issues and especially with visitation or parenting time issues/questions, it is important for the parents to be flexible, willing and able to compromise, and understand that circumstances can and do change with all infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents.
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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.