The research is now compelling, and it confirms common sense: children usually do best when both parents are fully involved in their lives. This is true whether the parents are living together or not. But Ohio law and the common pleas courts of most Ohio counties are way behind the curve on this issue.
Ohio law requires that each county’s court of common pleas have “standard parenting time guidelines” that the courts will use for divorcing parents unless the court determines that there is a statutory basis for deviating from this standard rule.
National Parents Organization (NPO) is dedicated to promoting children’s well-being by working to promote the active involvement of both parents in the rearing of children when the parents are living apart. In the pursuit of this goal, NPO recently undertook a comprehensive review of the parenting time guidelines of all 88 of Ohio’s county courts of common pleas. That report is available online here.
The results are shocking — and depressing.
The guiding principle in Ohio law for all domestic relations cases involving children is supposed to be the “best interest of the child.” One would expect, then, that county courts, aiming to promote the well-being of children of divorcing parents, would carefully review the best scientific research on child well-being and tailor their standard parenting time guidelines to promote the best interest of children.
A handful of Ohio county courts are doing just that. These counties, guided by a growing body of carefully constructed and peer-reviewed research, have adopted parenting time guidelines that provide children with equal or nearly equal parenting time with each of their fit parents. That’s what research says is best for children, what minimizes the adverse impact of parental separation.
The vast majority of Ohio courts, though, appear to have been constructed in complete ignorance of what psychologists and child development experts now know is best for children. And this includes Greene County.
While children in counties like Ashtabula and Tuscarawas are subject to standard parenting time guidelines that entitle them to seven overnights and 168 hours with each parent in a two-week period, children in Greene County are not so fortunate. The standard parenting time guidelines in Greene County allow children only two overnights and 54 hours with one of their parents in that same two-week period.
There is no consistency here. Ohio children are being subjected to wildly different presumptions concerning parenting time. It’s obviously not possible for such varied schedules to all be in the best interest of children, and the research tells us that it is counties like Ashtabula and Tuscarawas that are taking seriously their charge to create rules that promote the best interest of children.
But there’s good news here, too. Local court rules are local. There is no need to wait for the Ohio legislature to correct the problems. The Greene County Court of Common Pleas can change the outdated and harmful rule that is currently in place.
If you care about the well-being of children of divorced parents and believe, as researchers have come to conclude, that the active and engaged involvement of both fit parents is almost always best for children, contact the Greene County Court of Common Pleas and insist that it review its standard parenting time guidelines in light of what the research tells us is best for children.
We owe this to our children.
Donald C. Hubin, Ph.D. is with the National Parents Organization and is a guest columnist. He is a professor emeritus of philosophy at The Ohio State University and Director of the Ohio State University Center for Ethics and Human Values.