The Top Five Questions About Shared Parenting

 1. What is the difference between shared parenting and custody?

Ohio originally called shared parenting “joint custody.” Now, shared parenting is a specific type of custody arrangement where both parents have equal authority to make major decisions about their children.

The parent with whom the children are with at any given moment has the power to make day-to-day decisions, i.e., where to eat, what to wear, whom to play with.  The distinction between custody and shared parenting is that, in a traditional custodial arrangement, the custodial parent has the authority to make the major decisions affecting the children over the objection of the other parent. These major decisions are whether to use public or private schools; whether to home-school; where to go for routine medical treatment; and which extra-curricular activities the children should do.  Essentially, the custodial parent can “veto” the wishes of the non-custodial parent.

That is not to say that the non-custodial parent is without rights. She may seek Court intervention if the custodial parent is not acting in the best interests of the children and the other requirements of a change of custody are met.   

2. “My husband wants to do shared parenting, just so he won’t have to pay child support. Is this right?”

Short Answer: No. The court may grant a deviation, but it is not required to do so.

There is no automatic elimination (or even an automatic reduction) in child support when the parents have shared parenting.  If the parents cannot agree on child support, then the court will perform a child support computation that sets the “standard” child support amount under the Ohio guidelines. It will then consider the disparities in incomes and the number of overnights the child spends with each parent.

So, if both parents earn the same amount of money and have the child the same number of days, then the court is not likely to order child support. If there is a disparity in income, the court will almost always order the higher earner to pay child support to the lower earner. The thinking is that the child should not have a luxurious home with one parent and live in a hovel when with the other. Or, as one mature father put it, “If my ex lives in poverty, my child lives in poverty.”  

3. Do we have to have a week on/week off schedule to have shared parenting?

No.  Shared Parenting is a customized arrangement for raising your children after your relationship with the other parent ends. It has nothing to do with the schedule or amount of time you spend with your child. In shared parenting, neither parent can veto a decision by the other; if you disagree on a major issue, then mediation or actual court action is often necessary. The schedule is entirely up to the two of you.

4. Are “residential parent” and “custodial parent” the same thing?

Yes. Both refer to the arrangement above that is not shared parenting. The current correct term is “residential parent and sole legal custodian.”

The confusion arises from the term “residential parent for school purposes.”  This is a shared parenting term that only means that one parent’s public-school district will be the district where the children may attend without paying tuition.

More confusion arises from the practice of defining one parent as the “non-custodial parent” for the sole purpose of reference to the holiday schedule contained in the standard order. This almost always makes at least one parent nervous in a shared parenting plan even though it truly has no meaning beyond which parent gets which column of holidays in any given year.

5. Is shared parenting really just a label?

You may hear this from mediators attempting to settle your case.

If the shared parenting plan includes a provision that one parent has the “final decision making authority,” then the name “shared parenting” may just be a label.

If one parent has final decision making authority over school issues and the other has final decision making authority over medical issues, then it probably is a pure shared parenting arrangement. This type of divided authority over decision making is fairly common in high conflict custody cases where the parents want a resolution. 

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