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Columbus Dissolution Attorney series Part 6: More Dissolution Decisions for Parents

This is the 6th installment in a collection by a Columbus Dissolution Attorney about the benefits of dissolution. Virginia Cornwell is an Ohio State Bar Association Certified Family Relations Specialist.  Approximately 100 attorneys in Ohio have received this honor. You  can view other articles in the Dissolution in Ohio series by clicking any of the following links:
In Part 5 we covered the following topics: attorneys, grounds for dissolution, spousal support / alimony, and health insurance (children and adults).  Part 6 will deal with child related matters that must be decided if the parties are to have a dissolution.  If you don’t have children, you may want to skip ahead to part 7 of the series.  Please remember that this list is not meant to cover all issues which might apply to your case – it is NOT the same thing as talking to an attorney about your dissolution.  There will almost certainly be something that is an issue in your case that is not discussed here.1.  Are the parties going to have shared parenting after the dissolution or is one party going to have sole custody? With shared parenting, both parents are residential parents, and with sole custody, only one parent is the residential parent.  Before you get too hung up on this, please realize that sole custody is going to the way of the dodo (extinction).  There are a few courts in Ohio that fail to make the distinction between parents that are unable to communicate and parents that are unwilling to communicate, but the majority of courts take the more modern view that having both parents fully invested in the details of the child’s life is in the best interest of the child.  Once upon a time the party that did not want shared parenting CHOSE not to communicate or get along with the other parties, but this attitude has not stood the test of time, and, in this writer’s experience, many courts take the “tough beans” approach and award shared parenting anyway.  So unless one of the parents is a really, really bad person in a way that negatively affects the child, shared parenting is on the table.

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2.  If the parents will have shared parenting, who is going to be the school placement parent?  It’s not just about the “grades” that the school district receives.  The school placement parent is the child’s “home base”.  By default, although not always, the school placement parent is the party who receives child support.  For more information on the terms residential parent, school placement parent, and residential parent for school placement purposes, see this article: School Placement Parent

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3.  What will your parenting time schedule be? Regardless of whether you have sole custody or shared parenting, you are going to have to plan a parenting time schedule.  Of course you can’t predict every event that will come up between now and the time your children are 18, but you need to have a basic plan in place that you can rely on if you can’t agree to a different schedule.  Parents want to see their children frequently, and children want to see each parent frequently, but they don’t want to live out of a suitcase, never spending the night in the same bed two nights in a row.  The better approach is to pick a plan that allows the child to see both parents frequently, but doesn’t have the child switching houses every other day.  Even if the parenting time is split 50/50, that doesn’t mean the parents need to exchange the child every other day. 

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4.  Will you use part or all of your county’s local visitation schedule as part of your parenting time schedule?  When deciding a schedule for time with the child, parents need to look at their county’s local visitation schedule.  This amount of time is generally the LEAST amount of time that a fit parent will receive with a child.  That means it is the floor, not the ceiling.  In addition, even if you don’t like the schedule in the plan at all, it gives you an idea of all the issues that go with parenting time that you really didn’t even think about before, but now you need to agree to and spell out.  For instance, Franklin County Local Rule 22 / Franklin County Local Rule 27 addresses the following issues:

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  • What day and time does a weekend start and end?
  • Extracurricular acitivities
  • Parenting for children who are too young to go to school vs. children that are old enough to go to school
  • Holiday and birthday schedules
  • Summer schedule
  • Vacations
  • Long weekends
  • Mothers Day and Father Day
  • Religious holidays
  • Out of town travel
  • Telephone access
  • Transportation
  • Moving
  • Waiting
  • Cancellation
  • Illness
  • Make-up Parenting Time
  • Providing each other with current address and phone numbers
  • Emergency contact
  • Exchanging clothing
  • Car Seat
  • Long distance parenting time schedule

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Other county schedules include some features that are not included in Franklin County Local Rule 27 such as:

  • Specific schedules for infants
  • Access to day care and medical records
  • Parenting time is not to be exercised in a bar
  • Parenting time is not to be used to leave your kids with an unrelated babysitter
  • Right of First Refusal
  • Hair cuts, piercings, tattoos (altering child’s appearance)
  • Discipline
  • Consuming alcohol during your parenting time
  • Seat belts

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5.  Will either party pay child support to the other?

  • If so, who pays child support and who receives it?
  • How much is the guidelines child support amount?  Child Support (how much)
  • Should child support be lower or higher than the guidelines amount? Child Support (deviation)
  • If child support should be deviated, why should it be more or less than the guidelines child support amount?
  • Does either party pay child support for another child?
  • Will spousal support be paid (hint: counts as income)
  • Does either parent have a child living with him or her from another relationship?
  • Does either party pay union dues?
  • If either party pays for health insurance for the child, how much extra money does it cost per year to add the child to health insurance?
  • What will be the effective date of the child support?
  • Will either party be required to pay cash medical support?  If so, how much will it be.

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6.  Extracurricular acitivities. Lessons, Tutors, Summer School, School Tuition

  • Who is allowed to enroll the child in extracurricular activities?
  • Is either parent allowed to enroll the child in activities which fall during the other parent’s parenting time?  If so, must permission from both parents be obtained first?
  • Who pays for activities and for the equipment that is required?  Do both parents split the expense?  Do parents only split expenses which both parents agreed to? Is it supposed to be paid for with child support?
  • Who pays school fees and school tuition (not college)?  Is it going to be part of child support, or split between the parties?
  • If summer school or tutors are necessary, who will pay for them?

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7.  College Tuition.  In Ohio, payment of college tuition is NOT part of child support and you cannot be ordered to pay it for your child.  However, if you AGREE to pay it as part of your dissolution, divorce or legal separation  (not just verbally, but in writing, in the proper legal form), then the court can enforce this agreement.  You are always free to pay for your child’s tuition, but think about this:

  • What if your circumstances change between now and when your child goes to college and you cannot afford it?  You may be locked into an obligation you simply cannot pay, and your adult child’s expectation that you will pay can cause estrangement between you and your child.  The estrangement may be encouraged by your former spouse (parental alienation).
  • What if you do not have enough retirement saved when your child begins college?

For these reasons, you should give strong consideration to making a promise to your children that you may not be able to keep without neglecting your own retirement.

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8.  Who will claim the child as a dependent exemption on their taxes (who gets the tax exemption)?

There is no Ohio law that says one parent is automatically entitled to claim the kids as a dependent on his or her tax return.  The IRS has their own guidelines about who is supposed to claim the children on their taxes, and federal law trumps state law, so if  you are going to so something other than what federal law says, get the waiver in writing. Don’t forget, the Child Tax Credit goes along with the dependency exemption.  So here are some things you’ll need to decide….

  • Is the parent who pays child support going to claim the tax deductions?
    • If so, do they have to be subtantially current in their child support to claim it?
    • How are you going to define substantially current?
  • Do you want the parent who receives child support to be the one who claims the children as dependents?
    • If so, does that mean they have to pay for certain expenses that would otherwise be split between the parents?
    • Does that parent have to be working full time to claim the exemptions?  Part-time?  Do they have to be working at all?

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9. Don’t forget about health insurance!  For a recap of health insurance related decisions that will affect your child see: Part 5: Five Things You Need to Decide When You Want a Dissolution.

You may also be interested in some of the articles in our divorce series:

In addition to the other installments in the Dissolution in Ohio collection of articles (see links at top of the page), you may also find the following topics, which relate to divorce, to be helpful.

DISCLAIMER – Read it, it’s stuff you need to know!

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