Hats off to the Tuscarawas County Court of Common Pleas. Because the Court has decided to base its local parenting time guideline on the best research concerning what promotes children’s best interest, children whose parents are divorcing won’t be subjected to a legal "parentectomy" — a situation where one parent is reduced to something less than a fully engaged parent.
Ohio law requires each county court of common pleas to establish parenting time guidelines for divorcing parents. These guidelines provide a parenting schedule that courts will typically impose if the parents can’t agree on a different schedule. These default schedules play an important role in guiding parents’ choices about how to raise their children when the parents are living separately.
National Parents Organization is the largest and most influential national organization focused on the wellbeing of children whose parents are living separately. Because of its commitment to promoting child wellbeing when parents live apart and the compelling research showing that children whose parents divorce usually do best when they spend roughly equal time with each of their parents, NPO is dedicated to promoting the equal sharing of responsibilities for raising children when parents divorce.
NPO has just completed a thorough study of the local parenting time guidelines of all of Ohio’s 88 counties. (The full study is available here.)
For those who care about child wellbeing, the results are depressing! Sixty-four of Ohio’s 88 counties have parenting schedules that allow the children just two overnights and 60 hours or less with one of their parents. This "every other weekend and one evening a week" schedule may have been appropriate in the 1950s; it is certainly an inappropriate default schedule for the 21st century.
There is a large, compelling, and growing body of research, referenced in the NPO report, that clearly indicates that in the vast majority of cases, children of separated parents do best when they enjoy roughly equal time in each fit parent’s care.
While the overall results are depressing — most Ohio counties are failing our children — there are a handful bright spots. None is brighter than Tuscarawas County. Tuscarawas children who are going through the traumatic experience of parental separation are, by default, entitled to enjoy equal time with each parent.
This arrangement usually minimizes the harm that divorce can inflict on children. Judges Edward O’Farrell and Elizabeth Thomakos, Magistrate Karen Zajkowski, and Court Administrator Elizabeth Stephenson, along with members of the local bar association are to be congratulated on adopting parenting time guidelines that will promote children’s best interest.
Donald C. Hubin, Ph.D., is on the National Board of National Parents Organization and the Chair of the Ohio Chapter of NPO. He is a professor emeritus of philosophy at The Ohio State University and Director of the Ohio State University Center for Ethics and Human Values.