A Guide from the Supreme Court of Ohio for Parents Who Live Apart

By: William L Geary
December 16, 2016

Ohio's Guide for Parents Living Apart

Ohio parents and practitioners should check out the parenting guide at the Supreme Court of Ohio’s website.

This guide is for parents who live in different homes, and the guide considers the "positive involvement of both parents" as well as "preserving a healthy and ongoing relationship between children and both parents." It applies to parents who were married and parents who have never been married as well as parents with children in blended family situations and parents of children with disabilities.

This resource is introduced by Maureen O'Connor, Ohio's Chief Justice, and is "Ohio specific." As stated in the introduction, this guide is intended to ". . . foster fair and creative parenting schedules based upon children's developmental milestones and best interests." Several judges and magistrates were involved in the creation of this guide along with other professionals and subcommittees. 

The guide discusses an attempt to create consistency and help avoid conflict. It sets out a number of schedules and suggested schedules for children of different ages. There are different potential schedule scenarios set forth for several age ranges of children. In relation to some of the schedules set forth as examples, the guide discusses potential advantages and also potential disadvantages.

Parents and practitioners reading the guide are advised to consider a number of different factors, including the parents' schedules, the residence locations of the parents, holidays, and children's ages. 

Potential issues regarding holidays (with lists of potential holidays to consider) are discussed in the guide as are issues concerning parenting of children when the parents live far apart. Relocation is also discussed and considerations that should come into play before any relocation are also set forth. The guide also sets forth things to consider regarding whether the children should travel for parenting time in a "long distance" visitation or whether the parents should travel. Other areas of concern such as air travel and international travel are also addressed.

The guide recognizes that web-cam contact and other forms of e-communication might have to be considered to keep children in contact with one of their parents.

On totally different levels, the guide discusses "Absent Parent Reunification" when one parent is re-entering the child's life after a long absence, and the guide also touches on blended families and some of the unique issues presented by blended families (discipline, conflict resolution, "titles" for the stepmom and stepdad, and the use of counseling in blended family situations), as well as children who may not "want" to spend time with a parent.

The fact that we sometimes have "high-conflict" parents and sometimes have incarcerated parents or parents away on military service is also recognized and discussed, as are issues arising from the involvement of "third parties" like new boyfriends or girlfriends in the children's lives. Special needs children, who comprise around 30% of all children under the age of majority, are also thought of here, and some of the issues regarding doctors' appointments and exchange of information regarding treatments, needs, and medications are mentioned.

The guide also discusses "safety" issues and protection orders, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and drug abuse.

Different professionals and what they can offer in the way of counseling, mediation, collaborative divorce, parenting coordination, and psychological custody evaluations are also mentioned in the guide.

The guide contains a glossary of words and phrases which may be used by counselors, guardians, and attorneys and what these words and phrases mean to those of us who are involved with parenting issues.

Our firm would recommend that attorneys give clients and other attorneys the citation to this guide. It would be helpful to any parent involved in a parenting time allocation matter or situation and is also a great overview of many of the potential issues which should be considered by a practitioner in his/her interview of a potential client as well as in his/her preparation of any case or motion.

Obviously, with issues involving violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, long distances, high-conflict people, third parties, blended families, disabilities, medical conditions, potential air travel, potential international travel and very young infants, parenting issues can sometimes be complicated whether they involve married parents, previously married parents, or parents who have never been married.

When considering an attorney or firm for representation in a parenting time case, find an attorney or firm with experience and with connections to appropriate and effective psychologists, parenting coordinators, mediators, and counselors. The “goal” of any parenting-related case should be quick resolution which provides the child with a safe, healthy, and emotionally secure relationship with his or her parents under a schedule which can be easily interpreted and which covers as many of the expected issues for the child’s life as possible, with back-up provisions for counseling or mediation when necessary.

William Geary has offices in Columbus, Ohio and has been in practice since 1979. He limits his practice to family law matters and is licensed to practice in Ohio.

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