If that is a decision that the parents leave for the Court to decide, then, to some extent, it will initially depend upon the particular Southwest Ohio County in which the divorce proceeding has been filed. Some of the counties in Southwest Ohio have Court Parenting Departments consisting of people who are employed by the Court and whose job responsibilities include doing parenting investigations/evaluations in cases where people who are ending their marriage are unable to agree upon the manner in which they will allocate their parenting rights and responsibilities involving their minor children. These parenting specialists will meet with both of the parents together, each parent separately with the children; and depending on the age and maturity of the children, potentially separately with one or more of the children. At the end of the evaluation, the parenting investigator will prepare a detailed written report addressing the various legal issues that the law requires a Court to consider in determining the manner of allocating parental rights and responsibilities between the parents in consideration of the children’s best interest. That report is then provided to the Court, with copies provided to the attorneys for each party. The hope is, that after seeing these reports, which will include the recommendations of the parenting investigator as to the manner in which the Court should allocate parental rights and responsibilities in the best interest of the children, the parents will be able to come to an agreement on these issues.
Another process that is used by some Domestic Relations Courts in this area, is to have the parents and their attorneys meet with one or two of the Magistrates of the Court, and one of the Court’s parenting specialists. At this meeting, the Magistrate and parenting specialist will talk directly with each parent. In addition, each of the parties’ attorneys will make brief presentations. The Magistrate(s) and parenting investigator shall then meet and talk privately and then advise the parties and their attorneys as to the manner in which they would recommend that the parents allocate between them their rights and responsibilities involving their minor children. It is hoped that this process will assist the parties in coming to an agreement in order to resolve these issues.
In the end, if the parents are unable to come to an agreement on these parenting issues, they will ultimately need to be decided by the Judge assigned to the case, following a trial at which both parents shall testify, the parenting specialist shall testify, and various other witnesses and evidence will be presented to the Court. The Judge will then need to decide the manner in which the rights and responsibilities of the parents involving their minor children, shall be allocated after they are no longer married.
The process of deciding these parenting issues can be extremely traumatic and emotionally disturbing and upsetting; not just for the parents, but usually also for the children. The longer it takes, and the more difficult it is to resolve these issues, the more problematic the process is likely to become for both of the parents and the children.