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Amended Ohio equal parenting proposal still draws resistance

New Africa

A bill making evenly-shared parenting the starting point for custody cases in Ohio got another hour of divisive testimony in an Ohio House committee Tuesday, after its latest amendments did little to sway the legal and domestic violence organizations that are against it.

House Bill 14, brought forward early last year by Reps. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria) and Marilyn John (R-Richland County), has a long list of proponents and opponents. It would make shared parenting the statewide status quo, unless a court finds a preponderance of evidence showing that arrangement would hurt the child.

Right now, counties in Ohio have different ways of handling custody in court. A small fraction use near-equal custody to start, while others determine a custodial parent from the start of the process.

Lawmakers on the House Families and Aging committee amended the bill in November, changing the court's standard from clear and convincing evidence to a preponderance of evidence, paring the language back from equal to “substantially” equal parenting time, and adding court inquiries and factors.

Anthony Slosser said Tuesday he’s been in and out of court to maintain custody of his son, who is 11, for most of his life. “I watched my child's college fund become my attorney’s child's college fund; my retirement become my attorney’s retirement,” Slosser testified during the hearing.

Slosser and other proponents said the bill establishes equal footing for both parents when they are in court. But the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN), one of a number of opponents, has characterized the bill as a shift from “Ohio’s current child-centric model to a parent-entitlement model.”

Mary O’Doherty, ODVN executive director, said the amended version does not address her biggest issues with HB 14.

“The bill starts all families at the finish line,” O’Doherty testified. “The bill will create a chilling effect on victims, who will be afraid to present evidence that the other parent is unsafe.”

The National Parents Organization, which pushes for similar proposals in other states, also testified for the bill on Tuesday. The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Ohio State Bar Association, YWCA of Dayton and several other organizations came to testify against it.

Creech is divorced himself, and said he believes the bill gives parents less incentive to fight.

“Now that I have my children 50% of the time, we don’t fight over time any more. In fact, I would tell you that now, we are more lenient. When you are only getting your kids four to six days a month, you want that holiday, if it is your holiday,” Creech said at a news conference when he introduced it.

He introduced a similar bill last legislative session. That proposal had more than 50 lawmakers signed on but stalled in committee.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at