Two Republican Ohio State Representatives have re-introduced legislation to revise child custody laws to support equal shared parenting in Ohio.
House Bill (HB) 14, known as the “Children Need Both Parents” bill sponsored by State Representatives Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria) and Marilyn John (R-Richland County), looks to strengthen Ohio families and ensure the best outcome for the children involved with parents who are separated.
The legislation strives to create a fair and just system for families going through parental separation in Ohio. The justice system in the United States operates under the legal presumption that all citizens are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law; however, such a presumption is absent in family court.
The bill specifically establishes a presumption that equal shared parenting is in the best interest of a child with separated parents. The presumption would apply in instances of legal separation, divorce, dissolution, or annulment of parents’ marriages. The legislation would allow and encourage separating families to tailor parenting plans that fit their individual needs.
“More than 40 years of scientific research shows that in most cases, equal parenting is the best arrangement for raising children when parents live apart. This legislation will help protect a child’s emotional security with both parents and consequently will have a positive effect on their long-term mental and physical health,” Creech said.
The legislation would not eliminate sole custody arrangements or unequal parenting time schedules, but it would eliminate them as the starting point. Creech told The Ohio Star that the legislation has safeguards to protect children from parents who may be abusive, an addict, or otherwise harmful towards the child.
“It’s only for good parents. Too many good parents are losing their children and what people need to realize that they aren’t just ripping away one parent from the child but they are ripping away the whole family the grandmas, and grandpas, the cousins. Children should have the chance to learn from both sides of the family as long as they are safe,” Creech told The Star.
To date, there is no specific policy for Ohio on how parent-child relationships are to be viewed or approached when parents separate. There are places in the Ohio Revised Code that state that it’s best for children to have “continued and frequent contact with both parents,” but this falls far short of a clear statement of policy to guide the courts.
Creech told The Star that equal parenting legislation is being introduced and passed nationwide and “other states are getting a great response.”
Kentucky (2018) and Arkansas (2021) were the first two states in the U.S. with equal presumptions, and both had bipartisan support and passed quickly and with little to no opposition. West Virginia passed theirs in 2022, and according to Creech, dozens of other states are working on their own bills also.
Creech told The Star that he expects the legislation to receive bi-partisan support.
“It’s a bi-partisan bill even if there are two Republican sponsors. Divorce is divorce across the line. If people want to look at the facts, there is nothing partisan about this bill,” Creech told The Star.
Creech previously introduced the same bill (HB 508) in the 134th General Assembly as a bipartisan measure alongside State Representative Thomas West (D-Canton). The legislation gained a lot of support and traction last session but stalled in the House, forcing its reintroduction.
“No fit, loving parent should be relegated to the periphery of their child’s life just because they are no longer in a relationship with the other parent,” Creech said.
According to a 2018 Public Policy Polling, 87 percent of Ohioans “feel that children have the right to spend equal time or near equal time with both of their parents following a divorce or separation.”
State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) applauded Creech and John’s re-introduction of the legislation.
“This is an excellent bill that seeks to strengthen families. Hats off to Representative Rodney Creech for his tenacity fighting for children and Representative Marilyn John for providing additional support this new session,” Merrin said.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]