Ohio legislators should support shared parenting and parental equality: Donald Hubin (Opinion)
By Guest Columnist/cleveland.com
March 27, 2015
I’m disappointed that Ohio isn’t one of the 17 states across our nation with legislation filed to protect shared parenting and parental equality in instances of divorce or separation. Considering the number of modern families impacted by divorce, our state should want to lead in reforming its family courts because our children most want and need equal time with both parents, especially in the unfortunate instance of divorce or separation.
Ohio’s current law works against the wants, needs and rights not only of the parents involved, but most importantly, of our children. By pigeonholing one parent as primary custodian, the family courts also dramatically limit a child from having meaningful relationships with grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and other extended family.
Particularly troubling, however, is that when fit, loving parents desire to be fully involved in their own children’s lives after divorce or separation, they face an uphill battle that involves costly litigation when, instead, equal parenting roles should be assured and protected from the start.
Unfortunately, sole custody continues as the status quo despite a growing body of research that supports shared parenting post-divorce. In fact, the evidence in favor of shared parenting following divorce or separation is now overwhelming. In the past three decades, there has been a growing consensus among social scientists that, in most cases, when parents split, children do best when their parents are equally involved.
In the past year alone, three groups of child-development researchers and practitioners separately endorsed shared parenting in most circumstances. In one instance, the American Psychological Association published a report by prominent psychologist Richard Warshak, titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report,” that concluded shared parenting should be the norm. What’s more, the conclusions were endorsed by 110 researchers and practitioners who added their names to the paper — a rare occurrence in social science.
As research continues to side with shared parenting, federal statistics continue to reveal the risks faced by children denied the active involvement of both parents. For instance, federal data show that children raised by single parents account for the great majority of high-school dropouts, illegal drug use, institutionalized juveniles and teen suicides, among many other negative impacts.
Despite these statistics, Ohio’s child-custody laws remain outdated and ineffective. The National Parents Organization recently published its inaugural Shared Parenting Report Card, confirming that our state statutes are lagging.
In the first study of its kind to issue each state a grade, A through F, on how well child custody statutes encourage shared parenting and parental equality, Ohio received a C-. This isn’t good enough for Ohio’s children.
I encourage our state legislators to take action to raise our state’s grade and, most importantly, better meet the needs of our children. Legislators can have a dramatic impact by simply addressing the fact that our statutes:
- Contain no preference for or presumption of shared parenting.
- Do not explicitly provide for shared parenting during temporary orders.
- Do not mandate that a court award shared parenting even in a case where the court finds that the submitted shared parenting plan is in the best interest of the children.
- Have not been significantly revised in light of the 2001 recommendations of the task force set up by the Ohio legislature and the Ohio Supreme Court to recommend reforms to family law in Ohio.
To date, the growing list of states with active shared-parenting legislation includes Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
Legislators in these states have reviewed the research and taken steps to promote the well-being of the children of their states. It’s time for our legislators to take a stand for Ohio’s children.
Donald Hubin, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University, is chairman of the Ohio Executive Committee of National Parents Organization and a member of the National Board of National Parents Organization.