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Fathers’ Rights Are Under Attack in Ohio

Johnson & Core LLC Feb. 18, 2022

It is a conversation I have with Fathers pretty regularly: “under Ohio law, you have no rights to your child and until you petition the Court, the mother has complete control and discretion over the situation.”

It can be jarring for a Father to hear, that despite being on the birth certificate, and having been in the child’s life from the beginning (and often already paying support), that his gender starts him behind the 8-ball as a matter of law. Even after a Father files with the Court, they often feel unfairly scrutinized and maligned throughout the process.

Under Ohio law, the domestic and juvenile courts are tasked with determining what is in the “best interests” of the child or children. More often than not, having both parents in their lives is undoubtedly in their best interest. However, months, and sometimes years are spent overcoming this presumption, and proving to a Court that a specific arrangement is indeed in the best interest of the children. And this can all be for something as simple as parenting time on an every other weekend basis. In fact, many Fathers want more than just parenting time - they wish to be more deeply involved in the decision-making processes for their children which comes with a status called “Shared Parenting”.

When a court is reviewing a motion for Shared Parenting, they are instructed by the Ohio Revised Code to again, consider the best interests of the child or children. In fact, ORC 3109.04 lays out a non-exhaustive list of 15 factors the Court must consider when determining whether shared parenting is in the best interest. Among those factors the Court often emphasizes two in particular: The wishes of the child's parents regarding the child's care; and the ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly, with respect to the children. Far too often it appears the Court’s analysis concludes there, often meaning a Father’s motion for Shared Parenting is denied.

As a shocking example, I have been told by one magistrate that he would not even consider my client’s motion for shared parenting if Mother did not agree with it. He indicated that in his opinion, it does not work when one of the parties (Mother) does not want it. While this magistrate’s inclination may be logical, it raises serious questions into the impartiality the courts base their decisions on when it comes to Fathers and Shared Parenting. Furthermore, this position by the Court gives unfettered control over the proceedings to Mother, as all she must do is simply disagree with shared parenting with little basis other than she does not want it and that Magistrate would be inclined to follow her lead. The words contained in ORC 3109.04 matter, and they mandate the Courts to consider all relevant factors, not just the ones it may like best.

It can go without saying that many parties that attempt to co-parent have differing opinions on how to raise the children, and often have difficulties communicating. However, if the framers of this law intended for the only scenarios where Shared Parenting would be appropriate as being between parties that already agreed on Shared Parenting, there would have been no purpose or use for this law, its factors, and the mandate that a proposed plan be filed with the Courts prior to a trial. As an attorney that represents the rights of Fathers in Central Ohio, I believe it is my duty to push back against this conduct when I encounter it.

If you are anyone you know is struggling with a co-parenting or custody arrangement, please contact Johnson & Core LLC today.