Ohio Supreme Court Takes a Small Step Towards Shared Parenting

Ohio law is not particularly friendly to genuine shared parenting. It is the only parenting arrangement that a court can terminate on its own discretion without either parent asking for the shared parenting plan to be terminated (ORC 3109-04E(2)(c)

So it is encouraging to see the Ohio Supreme Court take a small step towards shared parenting.  Paul Fisher of Mercer County, Ohio, was a custodial and residential parent under a shared parenting plan that divided parenting responsibilities for his daughter, Demetra, equally between him and the child”s mother, Emma Hasenjager.  Both Paul and Emma went to court asking to be declared the sole custodial and residential parent.  The trial court did not terminate the shared parenting plan but modified it to remove Paul”s status as a custodial and residential parent without finding that there were changes in the circumstances.

After an unfavorable decision by the Appeals Court, Paul appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. In a 5-to-2 decision, the Court found that ‘shared parenting” does, after all, mean something in Ohio.  Even though a court may terminate a shared parenting plan on its own initiative without a finding that there has been a change of circumstances, it cannot modify a shared parenting plan by eviscerating it completely–by removing a parent”s custodial and residential status–without finding that there is a change of circumstances.  (See the OSC Summary of the decision here and a video of oral arguments here.

While this is a small victory for shared parenting in Ohio, it is still unclear how this will turn out for Demetra and Paul.  The case has been remanded to the trial court which, under Ohio law, can bring about exactly the same effect by terminating the shared parenting plan.  There is a long way to go, but this is a small but welcome step toward making ‘shared parenting” mean something in Ohio. Our cause will triumph through small incremental victories such as this one.

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