Modification or Termination of a Shared Parenting Plan in OhioA shared parenting plan is an agreement made between two parents as to their legal rights and responsibilities for their child or children. Usually the shared parenting plan is negotiated during a divorce proceeding or action to establish parentage. If the parents do not negotiate their own agreement, then it is up to the Judge to decide the rights and responsibilities of both parents. In any event, once the shared parenting plan is signed by the Judge, it becomes an order of the court, and a violation of the shared parenting plan constitutes contempt of court because it is a violation of an order of the court. Because a shared parenting plan governs the rights and responsibilities of both parents and it carries the weight of the law, it is important to enter into a good shared parenting plan that accurately reflects the wishes of both parents (although these wishes are often negotiated and compromised upon between the parents). The practical reality is that life happens and as children get older, their parents get older and wiser, the rights and responsibilities of the parents as spelled out in the shared parenting plan may need to be modified or terminated.
A shared parenting plan is always subject to modification. Because a shared parenting plan is designed to be in the best interests of the children, it is always subject to change as the best interests of the children may change. Additionally, due to the pressures of a divorce or parentage lawsuit, sometimes a parent enters into a shared parenting plan that is not really workable and is a bad fit in practice. Due to these issues, either parent can always petitition the court to change or terminate a shared parenting plan. The lawyers at Harris & Engler help clients in the Columbus and greater Central Ohio area with parenting and family law issues. An overview of the law in Ohio governing the process of modifying or terminating a shared parenting plan is provided below. If you have any questions about anything or are interested in changing your shared parenting plan, please feel free to call an attorney at Harris & Engler by calling (614) 610-9988.
Statutory Overview for Modification and Termination of a Shared Parenting Plan in OhioOhio Revised Code section 3109.04(E) governs the modification and termination of a shared parenting plan. Although there is not unanimity among the various appellate districts in Ohio on the issue, most districts in Ohio find that in order to terminate a shared parenting plan you go through the "best interests" procedure and for a modification of a shared parenting plan you go through a two-step procedure of finding that there was a "change of circumstances" and then the "best interests" standard contained in R.C. 3109.04(E)(1)(a).
Modification of a Shared Parenting PlanOhio Revised Code section 3109.04(E)(1)a) governs the modification of a shared parenting plan, and provides, in pertinent part: "(a) The court shall not modify a prior decree allocating parental rights and responsibilities for the care of children unless it finds, based on facts that have arisen since the prior decree, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child, ... and that the modification is necessary to serve the best interest of the child."
Although R.C. 3109.04 does not define "change in circumstances," Ohio courts have held that the phrase is intended to denote "an event, occurrence, or situation which has a material and adverse effect upon a child." Murphy v. Murphy, 5th Dist. Tuscarawas No. 2014 AP 01 0002, 2014-Ohio-4020. If a change of circumstances is established, the trial court must consider whether the modification is in the best interest of the child. Oliver v. Arras, 5th Dist. Tuscarawas No. 2001 AP 11 0105, 2002-Ohio-2479. In making this determination, a trial court is required to consider, but is not limited to considering, the factors contained in R.C. 3109.04(F)(1)(a) through (j). Finally, a trial court must find that the harm that will result from the change will not outweigh the resultant benefits.
Accordingly, in order to successfully petition to the court to modify a shared parenting plan, the petitioner must first show that there was a triggering event necessitating a change in the shared parenting plan, and then second, that the petitioner's proposed change is in the best interest of the child.
Termination of a Shared Parenting PlanThe main difference between petitioning the court to modify a shared parenting plan versus terminating a shared parenting plan is that in asking for the court to terminate a shared parenting plan you are basically asking the court to terminate shared parenting altogether and to give you sole custody and just totally start over. With a modification of shared parenting you are asking the court to just change certain things about the shared parenting plan. With termination you are asking the court to start all over in deciding parenting and custody issues.
Ohio Revised Code sections 3109.04(E)(2)(c) & (d) govern termination of the shared parenting plan and provide, in pertinent part: "(c) the court may terminate a prior final shared parenting decree that includes a shared parenting plan under division (D)(1)(a)(i) of this section upon the request of one or both of the parents or whenever it determines that shared parenting is not in the best interest of the children. *** (d) Upon the termination of a prior final shared parenting decree under division (E)(2)(c) of this section, the court shall proceed and issue a modified decree for the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the children under the standards applicable under divisions (A), (B), and (C) of this section as if no decree for shared parenting had been granted and as if no request for shared parenting ever had been made."
Asking the court to terminate the shared parenting plan is a bit more of an in depth request because the court will be required to essentially re-open the case and start over in determining who should have custody and what is in the best interests of the child.