A Call for Immediate Legislative Reform in Ohio Custody Laws sign now

A CALL FOR IMMEDIATE LEGISLATIVE REFORM IN OHIO CUSTODY LAWS

To: Distinguished Members of the Ohio Legislature

At every stage of life there is no greater resource and refuge for a child than the love of a parent. Time and time again studies have found and affirmed that the nurture and love of parents play a crucial role in positively shaping the future of their children. To a parent there is no greater responsibility or privilege than raising your children. It is a role that should be revered, respected and reinforced by legislature, government and judiciary.

Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a storm that threatens the parent-child relationship. Unrelated third party claims for custodial rights of children against unsuspecting biological parents are on the rise. Whats worse, extremist juvenile judges in Ohio are haphazardly injecting themselves into the private realm of the family and questioning conscious and deliberate decisions made by parents when there is no cause or legal authority to do so. These same judges have fashioned and are enforcing common law-style adoptions by substituting their judgment for that of parents by deciding and legalizing the role unrelated third parties should play in the lives of our children irrespective of the express wishes of the parents. Ohio needs immediate legislation which limits the ability of activist judges to push their agendas under the guise of the best interest of the child.

Examples of recent juvenile court rulings which have stripped natural parents of their children are outlined below. Each one of these cases was initiated by an ex live in companion claiming custodial rights to children they had NO legal rights to.

Hamilton County Magistrate Judge D. Kelley ruled that even though a biological mother refused to enter into a legal shared custody agreement with an ex live-in companion; the best interest of the child would be served by the biological mother, the biological father and the former live-in companion of the mother all sharing in the custody of the child. This arrangement was against the express wishes of the biological and fit parents. The Magistrate Judge indicated The court is aware that having three (3) individuals with a custodial interest in the same child poses logistical challenges that will need to be addressed at a future hearing. (In re Lucy Mullen, Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Case #F07-2803X, December 22, 2008). Case currently pending at Ohio Supreme Court.

Franklin County Juvenile Judge Kim Browne ruled that even though a biological mother refused to enter into a legal shared custody agreement with an ex-live in companion; the best interest of the child would be served by the biological mother and ex companion sharing significant custodial rights during the pendency of the custody hearing. The decision was made despite the fact that the former companion lived in another city and was living with a woman who had a criminal history and admitted drug use. Without a hearing on the merits, Judge Browne ruled The Court notes that Plaintiff and Defendant have both stated that they lived together during the time the minor child was born and that they continued to cohabit (sic) for three years following the birth of the child. Given the circumstances surrounding these particular facts, including facts related in both parties respective temporary order affidavits, the Court at this time is unable to determine beyond a doubt that Plaintiff (unrelated third party) can prove no set of facts in support of her claim that would entitle her to relief. (Gross v. Gross, 09JU-08-11743).

In so deciding, Judge Brown opens the door to all parents who cohabitate with an individual to seek custody of a child and in the interim request and receive significant custodial rights during the pendency of the hearing. This same court now considers allowing this ex companion with no legal standing to challenge the legal and final adoption of the child by the biological mothers husband in Ohios probate court and/or whether to send the mother to jail for refusing to comply with a visitation order that was effectively ruled null and void by virtue of the probate court adoption.

Franklin County Juvenile Judge Elizabeth Gill has forced a mother to give up significant custodial rights of her child during the pendency of a custody hearing based solely upon the unsubstantiated claims of a former live-in companion who filed a meritless petition for shared custody of her child. This fit mother refused to ever voluntarily share custody of her child, legally or in practice, with her former live in companion.

Nevertheless, without a hearing on the merits, Judge Gill ruled In a circumstance where a child has been placed by his or her parent in a living situation wherein the child develops a relationship with a non-parent, the childs best interest will more likely than not be affected by the unilateral decision of the legal parent to discontinue or limit the relationship with the non-parent.It is for this reason that the Court finds it is in the childs best interest for Petitioner (unrelated third party) to maintain a relationship with the minor child by means of visitation during pendency of this matter.

Judge Gills ruling takes away a parents right to even limit contact with an ex live in companion without court intervention. This matter has been pending for over 900 days and the mother has yet to have a hearing on the merits of the custody claim but has been forced to share her child in the interim. (Rowell v. Smith, Franklin County Juvenile Court, Case No. 08 JU 10 13850, June 23, 2009). Temporary orders challenged and are pending before Tenth District Court of Appeals on mothers appeal of contempt finding.

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Judge Jerry L. Hayes ignored a written and consensual shared custody agreement between two parties and instead fashioned its own shared custody arrangement. Judge Hayes ruled that while the former live in companion is entitled to extensive visitation and custodial rights of the minor children (based upon the best interest theory), she has no legal obligation to support them. The court suggests that Petitioner may wish to contribute to the support of the minor children. A special bank account should be opened and all child related payments should be made from that account to avoid later disputes. (In the Matter of Solomon J. LaPiana, Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, CU07101344-05, July 10, 2009).

In Franklin County, parents of unrelated ex companions (unrelated third parties twice removed) are now petitioning the courts for grandparents rights. (Scotney v. Warren, Franklin County Juvenile Court).

These cases are all pending and working their way through various appeals, but the interim emotional and financial devastation this has caused parents and their children is unconscionable and beyond repair. The instability and insecurity these courts have infused into the lives of our children is reprehensible. Parents are left with no way to adequately protect their children from such intrusion at the behest of vindictive ex companions.

This must stop. Ohio cannot allow these courts to perfect common law adoptions against the wishes of the parents. No court, regardless of how well intentioned it might be, can replace the love and nurture of a parent in the life of a child. Parents do not make decisions simply because their children are wards but rather they will endure hardship, pain and sacrifice for the sake of their children. As long as parents adequately care for their children, no court should be permitted to question the ability of parents to make decisions concerning the upbringing of their children.

We strongly urge the legislature to get involved and put an end to this injustice by drafting legislation that takes away judicial discretion which has allowed activist judges to insert themselves into the lives of healthy, happy families without cause. The burden of proof must rest on the government to first demonstrate a prima facie compelling reason (e.g. safety of the children) to interfere with the parent-child relationship. As it stands, activist judges are misconstruing the phrase best interest of the child as a broad invitation to insert themselves into families and make decisions about the health and happiness of a child even before justification is established.

We ask for your help, on behalf of all Ohio parents, so that we can get back to the fundamental freedoms and liberties that make this country so great. A parents role in the lives of his/her children must not be dismissed but instead should be cherished, respected and protected by the government. We have completely lost our way when a parent, a good parent, is put into a situation where he/she must fight the government for his/her basic human right to protect and raise his/her child.

For more information on this issue visit www.BringMaddieHome.com


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