Make Shared Parenting a Law in Ohio

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Current Law

            On January 1, 1998, the Ohio Revised Code Section 3109.042 was established.  The current law states:

An unmarried female who gives birth to a child is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a court of competent jurisdiction issues an order designation another person as the residential parent and legal custodian.  A court designating the residential parent and legal custodian of a child described in this section shall treat the mother and father as standing upon equality when making the designation (Ohio Revised Code Section 3109.042).

How The Current Law Has Affected Me

            The current Ohio Revised Code Section 3109.042 has had a negative affect on my child and I.  I have a 6-month old son that was born out of wedlock.   Before I started the court process to establish my parental rights as a father, a parenting plan, and child support arrangements; the mother had allowed me to have 1-2 overnight visits each week.  However, once the court process went underway, the mother had dropped my visitation with my son from 1 to 2 overnight visits each week to 3 to 4 hours.  As well as I have been denied access to my son’s medical records, which I believe is important at this young age.  Not only have I been denied important information regarding the health of my son and a drastic decrease in visitation, I have also spent thousands of dollars on attorney fees and court costs.  The thousands of dollars I spent on attorney fees and courts costs could have been allocated towards my child in terms of basic living necessities and a college fund.  With the negative impact the current law has had on my son and I, I believe that a reform is necessary.

Recommended Changes to Current Law

            Based on extensive amount of research from respectful sources and my experience, I strongly believe that changes to the current law are necessary.  I am certain that other fathers and children have been negatively affected by the current law as well.  I believe that children need to have frequent visitation with both parents.  Which is why I am recommending that the current law should be revised to grant both parents 50/50 legal custody and an established visitation schedule, once both parents sign the birth certificate or a paternity test establishes the biological father.  The visitation schedule that I am recommending is a 50/50 time share between parents.  Also, l am recommending that there be less severe consequences for non-custodial parents who are having financial difficulties paying child support. The evidence and research that supports my recommendations will be provided below.

Why Consider Shared Parenting Legislation

            Shared parenting should be considered the norm for child custody because of the benefits for both the children and parents.  According to Dr. Linda Nielsen, a Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology at Wake Forest University, a child benefits the most when they spend at least 35% of the time with each parent.  Her conclusion was derived from 25 years of research that she conducted. Under the current law, the typical standard visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent is every other weekend, one weeknight per week, two-six weeks in the summer, and some holidays. With the current standard visitation, the non-custodial parent visitation would be 5 years of the 18 years they raise their child.  Which means that the non-custodial parent is missing out on 13 years of being with their child.

Currently, there are nearly 20 states that are considering or have implemented shared parenting legislation.  In California and Washington, shared parenting is considered the norm for 75% of parents.  In New York and Washington, judges are required to grant equal parenting time unless there is proof that it will not be in the child’s best interest.  Utah recently passed HB35, which increases the parenting time for non-custodial parents from 80 overnight visits a year to 145.  Some of the other states that are considering and implementing shared parenting legislation are Missouri, Maine, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas.      

 Advantages of Shared Parenting

            The advantages of shared parenting are as listed:

1.     Studies have concluded that there is less parental conflict among parents with shared custody than when one parent has sole custody.

2.     Children maintain regular contact with both parents

3.     A Wake Forest Law Review stated that children in shared custody arrangements had significantly better scores on an index of emotional, behavioral, and academic function.

4.     In a Ph.D. dissertation at Indiana University, Chadwick Menning found that adolescents in shared custody arrangements were more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

5.     Provides advantages for childcare and reduces the cost and/or need for a childcare provider.

6.     A study on child support payments concluded that parents with shared parenting had no issues with payments and none had to return to court.  Whereas, about 50% of sole residential parents receive regular child support payments.

Why Children Need Fathers      

        A portion of my research consisted of how children that are raised in fatherless homes fair with children that have a father actively involved in their lives.  I focused on fatherless homes because currently unmarried mothers are granted sole custody of a child at birth, as well as nearly 50% of children today are born into fatherless homes.  Through my research, I have gathered unfathomable statistics, which are listed below.

1.     According to the U.S.D.H.S Bureau of Census, 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes, which is five times the average. 

2.     70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes, which is six times the average, according to the U.S.D.O.J Report. 

3.     The US National Principals Association reported that 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, which is seven times the average.

4.     75% of all adolescent patients in substance abuse rehab come from fatherless homes, which is ten times the average, according to the U.S. CDC.  In the CJ&B, Volume 14, pages 403-426,

5.     80% of rapists motivated by displace anger come from homes without a father, which is eleven times the average.  According to the U.S CDC, Fulton Co. Georgia Jails, and the Texas Dept. of Corrections,

6.     85% of all children who show behavior disorders and youths in prison come from fatherless home, which is 15 times the average. 

7.     Derived from the U.S.D.H.S Bureau of Census, which reported that 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes, which is 24 times the average. 

8.     According to studies, children that live in a single-parent home are at double the risk for suffering physical, emotional, or educational neglect; the current overall rate is 27.3 children per 1000. 

CHILD SUPPORT AND COST OF INCARCERATION

         The last portion of my research included child support and the cost of incarceration for non-payment.  The average percentage of the non-custodial parent child support payments with a net income of $2,500 a month is 25%.  Along with the 25% for child support, nearly 25-30% will be taken out for social security, state, and local taxes.  Therefore, the non-custodial parent would receive only 50% of their paycheck.  Based on earning $2,500 a month, the non-custodial parent would have about $1,250 a month to pay their bills. I believe that both parents have the financial responsibility to raise their child. However, I believe that the current family law applies inequality against non-custodial parents. If a non-custodial parent is having financially difficulties and are unable to make payments, they face legal consequences that can make it more difficult to pay.  These consequences include arrest warrants, suspension of drivers licenses, revoking driving privileges, denial of tax refunds, garnishment of wages, property liens, and lowering credit score.   

                 With the current law permitting the incarceration of a non-custodial parent for three months for failure to pay child support, it is costing the state valuable tax dollars. The cost of incarceration is about $100 a day, for a three-month period, the incarceration would cost the state nearly $9,000.  As an example, in Charleston County Jail, South Carolina, there are 120 inmates and 10% of those inmates are serving time for missed child support.  This is costing the state of South Carolina $108,000 to incarcerate these individuals.  In conclusion, it is costing the state more money to incarcerate an individual for unpaid child support than it would be to pay the child support.    

 Summary

                  The current Ohio Revised Code Section 3109.042 needs to be reformed.  The revision that I am recommending is to grant both parents 50/50 legal custody and an established visitation schedule, once both parents sign the birth certificate or a paternity test establishes the biological father. The visitation schedule that I am recommending is a 50/50 time share between parents. This revision that promotes shared parenting would allow children to have a healthy relationship with both of their biological parents, which is truly what is in the child’s best interest.



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