Ohio Father Law Perspectives

Ohio Laws Affecting Married, Divorced & Unmarried Fathers

Archive for the tag “Children”

The Top Three Legal Reasons Fathers Should Never Spank

I ask fathers right off the bat if they spank their children.  If they say yes, I tell them to knock it off.  Most accept my advice.  Whenever I write anything against spanking, I get flooded by bible quotes and stories about how a “good lickin’” never did any kid any harm.  The thought process is straightforward:  I was spanked; I turned out okay, so I’ll spank my kids.

"This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You!"

“This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You!”

Where I practice law (Ohio), spanking is legal provided that it is “proper and reasonable.”  I don’t care if it’s legal –Fathers in divorce and custody cases should never spank their children.  Here are the top three reasons why.

Courts are “Psychologicalized”

Blame it on Oprah, but psychology is a cornerstone of American culture.  Family courts have relied on the opinions of psychological experts for decades and that reliance is only increasing.  The psychological community is against spanking.  The American Academy of Pediatrics is against spanking.  Oprah and Dr. Phil are against spanking.

Even in states like Ohio where spanking is legal, fathers who spank are starting off at a disadvantage:  Ohio corporal punishment must be “proper and reasonable,” and what “proper and reasonable” means is whatever a Judge says is means on any given day.  The legal decisions on what is proper and reasonable are conflicting and confusing.  It all depends upon the circumstances, which may (or may not) include the child’s age and behavior, the place and severity of the punishment and even the child and parent’s demeanor during the punishment.  If a parent over steps, there are serious criminal and civil consequences, including domestic violence orders on behalf of the child.

shutterstock_159430676Why start having to prove that how you spank is “proper and reasonable” when you already have to overcome negative stereotypes, the stakes are high and the cost of litigation costs are higher still?  It’s just not worth it.

Men are Vulnerable

Divorce and custody cases are some of the meanest in the legal industry.  Some mothers (not all but some) will accuse the father of violence, rape and child abuse at the drop of a hat to ruin his relationship with the children or his life in general.    Fathers belong to a class of people (men) who commit most of the violent crime in this country and there is usually a family component to that violence.  Court use extreme caution in protecting children.  Men are stronger than women and will be the first suspect if any bruises or marks are found on the child.  A father who spanks, especially with a belt or paddle, will be in the horrible position of proving that his actions were reasonable and proper to the family law court, as well as also dealing with whatever additional legal cases the mother files.

I have never seen a father who regularly spanks his children end up with custody.

It’s Bad for Your Children

The scientific evidence is clear.  Spanking does not change a child’s behavior in the long-term.  Not only that, the scientific evidence is clear that children who are spanked are more prone to mental health problems and have worse relationships with the spanker.  These are facts that many parents do not want to accept.  Children whose parents are divorcing or fighting over custody are already facing many challenges.  I have never heard anybody deny this reality.  Why make it worse by sticking to an outdated, ineffective parenting method during the worst time in your child’s life?

"I'll Teach You to Hit!"

“I’ll Teach You to Hit!”

One More Thought

Some fathers really are diehards and sincerely believe that it is their duty to spank their children.  To these fathers, I say that, just while your legal case is happening, let your kids be brats and don’t spank.  Once your rights as a father are protected, you are free to use whatever discipline method that is legal in your state.

I have never had a father go back to spanking after stopping during his legal case.

Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved.  Anne Catherine Harvey LLC.

 

BIG DIVORCE PROBLEMS THAT AREN’T SO BIG AFTER ALL

shutterstock fear_175790252 [Converted]BIG DIVORCE PROBLEMS THAT AREN’T SO BIG AFTER ALL

Fear can devour divorce clients. Sometimes fear is so sharp that a person delays the inevitable. Unfortunately, fear during a divorce is normal and unavoidable.  In a few circumstances, what clients perceive as huge barriers in their cases actually turn out far smaller than they imagined going in.

Long-Term Marriages

Many clients first meet with me concerned that their case will be complicated just because it has lasted upwards of thirty years.  In reality, long-term marriages, where the partners start out together with clothing, wedding gifts, and starter cars, are easier to end than shorter marriages where the parties are more likely to be on their second (or third) divorce and they started off with property and debts. Usually a longer marriage means that the parties’ children are emancipated by reason of age, so there are no issues of custody or child support.  A longer marriage also means that, unless there are inheritances, personal injury settlements, or gifts, then the property and debts are probably going to be considered “marital.”  Under Ohio law, an equal division of marital property and debts is presumed to be fair.  If all the property and debts are marital, it is merely a matter of itemizing and valuing the property for an equal division. Long-term marriages tend to bring a host of emotional issues.  When a person has been married longer than they were ever single, the transition to a divorce can be very traumatic.  Most people in this situation, however, have an innate toughness and recover quickly.  Again, when the common children are emancipated, it is easier to live separate lives without the constant challenge of co-parenting while divorced. So, terminating a long-term marriage usually causes more emotional issues than legal issues.

My Spouse is in Prisonshutterstock fear_175790252 [Converted]

Not surprisingly, imprisonment often leads to divorce.  Ohio law specifically provides that “imprisonment of the adverse party in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint” is grounds for divorce.   The fact of imprisonment is usually easy to corroborate and service of process can be done to the party in care of the warden of the institution.

The complexities of “prison divorce” revolve around child issues.  The mere fact of imprisonment does not mean a party will never again see their children.  The fact of imprisonment greatly diminishes a party’s ability to pay child support.  In fact, Ohio law now provides that income will not be imputed to a parent who is:

“incarcerated or institutionalized for a period of twelve months or more with no other available assets, unless the parent is incarcerated for an offense relating to the abuse or neglect of a child who is the subject of the support order when the obligee or a child who is the subject of the support order is a victim of the offense.”

In the usual circumstance, the child support obligation will be set at close to nothing during the time of imprisonment.  And, the other parent is usually not surprised and is happy simply to attend a short hearing without the presence of their imprisoned spouse.

Boilerplate Language

Most divorce documents contain language such as “gross neglect of duty,” “extreme cruelty,” and my spouse will “molest and annoy” me unless restrained by order of this court.  We field many calls of panic over this language when people are served with divorce.

In reality, the language is boilerplate and taken directly from the statute for grounds and the requirements for a temporary restraining order.  I routinely reassure clients that the language is on every lawyer’s computer in town and that we will file the “mirror image” of what their spouse filed.

Incompatibility is the basis for almost all Ohio divorces.  The only purpose of a restraining order is to keep the parties in the same position as they were in before the filing.  In this instance, “molest” in this contest is an outdated legal term that has nothing to do with sexual abuse.

shutterstock fear_175790252 [Converted]Conclusion

Divorce is rough, but usually for reasons other than what clients expect in the beginning.  At least in the circumstances outlined above, I usually can relieve the immediate terror of what is taking place.

Copyright 2014.  All rights reserved.  Anne Catherine Harvey LLC

“Not all prisons have bars” Amanda Hocking, Torn

Relocation with a minor child is a heart-breaker.  Just when the newly divorced parents have gotten used to the parenting schedule, the back-and-forth, and the reality of not seeing their child every day, somebody gets transferred.  Or somebody has a new love interest.  Or somebody wants to fulfill their life-long dream of living in sunny California.

                                     Can I Move with My Child? Can She Move My Child Away?

There is an entire body of law surrounding when a parent can move with a child.  If the new place is merely across the street, all that has to happen is to file a notice of new address with the court and the child support agency.   If the new place is fairly close, say around 50 miles, then the moving person will at least initially be stuck with most of the drive back and forth.  Dayton to Columbus does not change the every other weekend arrangement.  Dayton to L.A., however, changes everything for everyone.

Mothers often ask me if they can move to wherever, for whatever reason, usually far away, often for a new military husband.  I tell them that they can move anywhere they can afford to live because this is America and anybody can live anywhere.  If they want to take the child with them, however, it’s another story.

If mom is the custodial parent, the mere act of moving away does not constitute a “change of circumstances.”  In order to stop litigation and provide stability to children, Ohio law requires the parent requesting a custody change to prove that a change of circumstances has occurred.  The change must be substantial and unknown at the time of the last order.  A change of circumstance must first be proven before the court will start to think about what is in the child’s best interest.  If the other parent, usually the dad, decides to contest the move, a custody battle usually follows.

Judges call custody decisions agonizing.  Parents call custody battles hell.  The recent case of In re M.P., 2013-Ohio-3939, illustrates this point perfectly.  Pam and Rodney were divorced with a son (“Johnny”) and Pam had custody.  A year later, Pam and Rodney had a full trial on whether Pam’s plan to move constituted a change of circumstances.  Nothing changed because Pam decided not to move, after all, with her new boyfriend to Florida, 1200 miles away.  The following year she moved to Florida anyway, took Johnny with her and enrolled him in year round school.  Rodney filed for custody.

image

After a second full custody trial, the Court eventually required Johnny to return home and granted custody to Rodney.  The Court held that an out of state move, along with other circumstances, could constitute a substantial change of circumstances.   The other circumstances in this case included the fact that both sets of grandparents lived near Rodney in Ohio; that Johnny had friends in Ohio he had known since his birth; that Pam’s new boyfriend was volatile and altercations had taken place; and the distance and year round school all but eliminated regular parenting time between Johnny and Rodney.

It is hard to imagine a situation where an out of  state move does not affect other circumstances that the non-moving parent can develop to keep the child at home.  In Brown v. Brown, 2013-Ohio-3456, Holli and Troy divorced and Holli took custody of their three boys.  A year later, she wanted to move from Champaign County, Ohio to South Carolina for a new job and to be closer to her parents.  A custody battle followed.

All three boys had close bonds with their immediate and extended family.  Interestingly, the Court found that the fact that Holli had been the primary caregiver was not the most important factor to consider.  In the previous case,  In Re M.P., the Court noted that Pam had been Johnny’s primary caregiver, but that could only be considered in the initial custody determination (who gets custody in the divorce), and not in a later request to change of custody.  The Brown court found that it was impossible to imagine how the children could be better adjusted to their friends and family in Champaign County and the only advantage to a move to South Carolina was a longer sports season because of the milder climate.  The Court kept the boys in Ohio and awarded custody to their father.

 TAKE AWAY FROM ALL THIS     

What is the take-away from these recent cases?  I was happy to learn that there is an expiration date to the advantage to being the primary caregiver.  Fathers are frequently beat over the head with the argument that the mother has provided most of the care, so therefore she is the best parent for custody.  While this still has heavy weight during a divorce custody battle, it cannot be considered in a change of custody after divorce.

Both of these cases had good father facts.  All of the children were older, both fathers were hands-on, and the all the children were thriving in Ohio.

The longer a child lives in Ohio, the more likely it is that he will stay.  The built-in advantage to the primary caretaker dissipates with time.  It is costly and agonizing to contest a relocation, but relocation out of state has more far-reaching (pun intended) impact upon the parent-child relationship than who has custody in the same town.

Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved.  Anne Catherine Harvey LLC

charlie

Ohio Home School Law: A One Parent Decision

Read more…

Guest Blog from Slater & Zurz LLP, Akron, Ohio

Too Many Ohio Children Injured in ATV Accidents

According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) nearly 100 children under the age of 16 are losing their lives each year in the United States from ATV related accidents. In most of these cases, no one has broken any laws.

Ohio is ranked 15th in the nation for ATV accidents. One third of those accidents involve children under 16.   There were 82 fatalities in Ohio from 2008 to 2011 (this time span has not been completely tallied).  Based on CPSC statistics, more than 40,000 Ohioans visit emergency rooms each year for ATV accident injuries.

Why so many ATV injuries and deaths?

Why is this happening?  Why are children who are not legally old enough to drive a car getting injured or killed using recreational vehicles?

There are many reasons, but one of the main ones is these multi-gear, high velocity vehicles are simply too much for most young children to handle.

ATVs can weigh hundreds of pounds and go as fast as 70 mph.  In some cases children are ejected from the vehicles as they attempt to control a vehicle designed for an adult.

Another reason there are so many accidents is that ATVs are often ridden on private land where there are few regulations in force.  There are no rules related to a child being a passenger on an ATV while on private property in Ohio.

Manufacturer Warning Labels

Each ATV sold is mandated to have a label indicating the manufacturer’s recommended age for its operator and a CPSC recommendation on suitable operator age.   Young children are advised not to take passengers or be a passenger on an ATV driven by someone else.

child on atv

Ohio Laws When Riding an ATV on Public Land

If riding an ATV on public land in Ohio, the rider must be 16 years old and have a driver’s license, CDL, motorcycle endorsement, or a probationary license.  The ATV must be titled and registered. Registration must be renewed every three years.

The operator and his or her passenger must wear a helmet and eye protection while riding in state forest areas.  A person who is at least 12 may operate an ATV on Department of Natural Resources land if accompanied by a parent.   No one under 16 may operate an ATV unless that person is on land owned by a parent or unless they are accompanied by an adult 18 or older.

Forty-four states have ATV safety laws, but most do not designate a specific age for operators.  In general, those familiar with ATVs agree this is not a machine for children under six years of age.

This article was written and provided by the Ohio law of Slater & Zurz LLP.  Over the last 40+ years, Slater & Zurz LLP has handled over 30,000 personal injury cases throughout Ohio and helped clients receive more than $150,000,000 in verdicts and settlements. If you have been injured in any type of accident, please contact Slater & Zurz LLP for a free consultation by calling 1-800-297-9191 or visit slaterzurz.com

 

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