Ohio Father Law Perspectives

Ohio Laws Affecting Married, Divorced & Unmarried Fathers

Archive for the tag “Parents”

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.

 

Victory for Fathers’ Rights on Two Fronts!

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I have many clients who are fathers in bad situations. Some fathers find themselves in bad marriages, but fear filing for divorce because they believe that the courts will always favor the mother and they will simply lose their children. Other fathers, already divorced, feel shut out of the parenting process, but fear filing for custody because they believe it is simply a lost cause. Increasingly, however, the Courts are looking to facts and not simply to gender. The latest case to highlight this encouraging trend is Neer v Neer,  Montgomery County Appellate Case No. 25876.

In Neer, the mother appealed the trial court’s decision granting the father’s Motion to Terminate a Shared Parenting Plan and Motion to Modify Child Support. Father and mother had been in a shared parenting plan since their divorce. The father found the plan unworkable because of the mother’s unilateral actions. For example, mother decided to put their teenage son on Prozac without consulting father. She later took him off Prozac without consulting father and the child became sick with the side effects of withdrawal. She failed to tell father of any of their son’s medical appointments. The mother also changed their eight-year-old son’s day care without consulting father. This caused confusion to the child and disruption to the father. The mother refused to cooperate with the new daycare provider when father was forced to work late.

The Court granted the father’s request for custody, terminated his child support obligation and ordered the mother to pay child support to the father. The Court also imputed a higher income to the mother than the mother’s reported income from a part-time job, increasing mother’s monthly child support obligation to the father.

The Neer court stated:

“Significantly, the record established that the parties’ relationship had deteriorated since the divorce to such a degree that the minor children had begun to suffer as a result of Paulette and James’ inability to communicate effectively. Paulette routinely made unilateral decisions without James’ input or knowledge that negatively affected the children in various ways. The evidence further established James is able to provide a more stable living environment.”

A mother’s routine lack of coöperation? A father who can provide a more stable living environment? The court clearly looked at the parties’ actions without regard to their gender and determined that the mother caused the problems in the shared parenting agreement. The trial court found that the mother had excluded the father in the parenting and it had adverse effects on the minor children. The language used by the Court shows that it considered each person’s abilities as a parent, period. The Court went to the trouble of considering facts instead of automatically assuming the mother just had to be the better parent.

The second area the court ruled on that was helpful for fathers rights was the ruling on the mother’s Child Support Order. The Court based the amount of child support paid by the mother to the father upon income  she should have been earning, not the much lower amount she actually earned. Despite the fact that the father earned far more than the mother, the court increased the mother’s child support obligation beyond what she actually earned.

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What does this mean for fathers? It means that you have rights and the courts will not ignore you if you have facts to back-up your custody case. Fathers should collect evidence (emails, texts, Facebook posts, dates of events) that demonstrates that the mother’s actions are destructive to the father-child relationship. In short, the Court recognized that the father-child relationship has inherent value and it protected this valuable relationship at the expense of the mother whose actions undermined that very relationship.

The father in Neer had several factors to his advantage going in to the case. For starters, he already had shared parenting and was designated residential parent for school purposes. He also had the good luck to be the father of older boys. Finally, the mother did herself absolutely no favors by messing with a trouble child’s medical care and disrupting the daycare and school schedule for the younger child for her own financial gain.

Would the case have had a different outcome if the children in question had been two-year-old twin girls? Perhaps. The point of Neer is that the Courts are now looking to specific facts and not simply perpetuating the myth that gender controls a person’s parenting ability. It is always easier for a father to win a child dispute case when the mother is what I call a “Imperial Mother.” The fact that the mother in Neer was willing to appeal the case despite her own actions indicates that she herself was counting on the historical bias in favor of mothers. She’s done a favor to fathers everywhere by elevating the case to the appellate level.

I found the Neer case on my Ohio State Bar Association app where I read advance sheets on family law every morning before work. If you have questions about this case, or concerns about your legal rights as a parent, I’d be glad to speak with you.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.  Anne Catherine Harvey LLC.

charlie

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