Although many Americans don’t realize it, our laws regarding issues in divorce like property division, child custody and spousal support are written and passed by the lawmakers in our state capitals before being signed into law by the governor (or vetoed, if the governor doesn’t support the legislation). That means our Ohio lawmakers can have a say in your divorce – particularly if you and your spouse can’t reach agreements on the terms and need to leave the decision to a judge, who’s required to follow the law.
There’s currently a bill under consideration in the Ohio House of Representatives that would add a presumption in the law that 50-50 shared child custody is best for a child. That presumption is already used in some counties throughout the state, but not statewide. The rest of the state follows the presumption that one parent should be given primary custody of a child in divorce.
Because each situation is highly unique, even if the bill becomes law (and it’s still in the early stages), that doesn’t mean a judge can’t use their discretion based on the evidence and arguments that each parent has made. It simply means that a parent would need to rebut the presumption that equally shared custody is best for their child if they’re seeking a different arrangement.
Disagreement on the proposed change
The bill has its detractors. Some argue that it will require those with a co-parent who’s abusive to them and/or their child to prove it to prevent them from getting shared custody. One retired Ohio Supreme Court justice said that “the premise that everything has to be 50/50…[is] just unnatural.”
The key sponsor of the bill argues that it merely codifies “an official state policy that ensures children have a continued and meaningful relationship with both parents and to the greatest extent possible, that parents share equally in time and responsibility.”
It’s certainly important to understand the current relevant state laws as you contemplate or prepare for divorce. However, the more you and your spouse are able to negotiate your divorce agreements on your own, under the guidance of your individual legal representatives, the less you need to put these crucial matters in the hands of a judge who will need to turn to the law as they make their decision.