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Free Legal Advice: The Law Blog


Disclaimer: "Free Legal Advice" is not meant to be actual legal advice.  Reading this blog will make you more informed, but it will not make you my client.

By witkinnatha39284922, May 11 2016 01:02AM

Before the Information Revolution, overworked judges would have to decide deeply important issues of child custody and visitation through the demanor of parties as they testified in court. What the children told the judge or custody investigator carried a lot of weight because it was the only window into the actions of the parties outside of court (where life happens and children need skilled parents). As a result, parents placed a lot of pressure on the children, leading to coaching, manipulation, and the stress of having to choose one parent over the other (imagine an inversion of "Sophie's Choice" where, instead of Meryl Streep having to choose between her two children, the children have to choose between her and their father, like in "Kramer v. Kramer").

And then Facebook and text messages were invented. Now, unless you avoid all of the popular ways that people communicate, your true character will either shine or be raked through the muck before the case reaches trial. This is because parents communicate (or do not communicate) outside of court, and this information is now readily available. Judges focus on the best interest of the children and understand that divorce and custody cases are hard on them. Much of the reason for this is that their parents are undergoing the emotional trauma of a breakup. Parenting is extraordinarily difficult, and it is made harder when one parent no longer wants to be with the other parent, each parent is taking on parental responsibilities without the help of the other, and the children want to go back to how it was when their parents were not engaging in emotional warfare. Through this, each parent needs to ensure the children that both parents will love and be there for them.

What seems to occur more often are denials of parenting time, arguments with the children in the middle, children being bribed, and general nastiness. Now, these things are recorded in text messages, Facebook posts, and smart phone apps that record audio and video.

The lessons to be learned here: Don't be a jerk during your divorce or custody case, and if the other parent is being a jerk, record it and send it to your lawyer. This new dynamic will hopefully start leading to people behaving better in custody cases. Your every action is being watched, your bad intentions will surface if you have them, and your efforts to fake genuinely skilled parenting will be caught. So, let go of the relationship, treat the other parent as a good co-worker, and do not text or post anything stupid during your divorce or custody case.

By witkinnatha39284922, Apr 9 2016 01:00AM

With all of the interesting points of law floating out there, I thought I'd start this blog with a legal anomoly--Ohio Revised Code 3119.08. NOTE: if you are an unmarried guy who just received a letter from Child Support Enforcement, please read on--this pertains to you.

This is a law that seems to create sweeping benefits. It is near the beginning of the chapter of the Revised Code (a.k.a., the body of writing in Ohio that manages when other people and the government can take your freedom and property) that deals with child support. With approximately half of marriages ending in divorce and the number of children born to married parents being outnumbered by the children born to non-married parents (who may have less-stable relationships), child support is an important and growing element of our society.

Another issue affecting the well-being of our society is single-parent homes. Only in the last two hundred years (with the Industrial Revolution) did people stop raising children in extended families or communities. We are not born knowing how to be good parents. It is not taught in school. But it is more important than anything else we do. And some of us do this alone (and the vast majority of that some of us are women). Studies have repeatedly shown that children with stable father figures in their lives are more likely to graduate high school and stay out of jail. And studies also show that a good relationship between the parents is more important than whether the parents stay together (so two parents who amicably share parenting time will tend to raise children who are better put together than the children of parents who stay in an openly toxic relationship "for the kids").

So when two young, unmarried kids have an unplanned pregnancy and the entirely understandable pressures of the situation cause them to break up, their child's well-being depends on whether both parents, together, can navigate the emotional baggage that is left over from the relationship.

So, what does the law do to guide them through this turbulent situation. Well, there is a thing called "custody" which means parental decision-making power. If the parents cannot get along, then only one of them can be making decisions and needs to be designated as the custodian. Now, there are biological reasons that mothers needs to be raising infants and an overwhelming hormonal response to pregnancy that causes a mother's brain to rewire around attachment to the child. As a result, mothers start out with custody. But just because decisions must be made by one parent (if both parents cannot make decisions together) that does not mean that the other parents should not have contact with the child.

However, this is the legal plight of the unmarried father: no access to the child until they hire an attorney and file something in court. It's not that all unmarried fathers are dangerous or shouldn't be around the child. It's just that the law treats them as if they were.

But wait: there's a solution. The Ohio Legislature figured out that if a guy steps up, establishes paternity (proving he's the father), and is ordered to pay child support, he can't be ALL bad. The result is 3119.08. This law states that the court SHALL establish parenting time (including summer and holiday time) for anyone who is ordered to pay child support. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. Despite being clear and unambiguous, this law is never applied by courts. The reason for this is, basically, that anyone who effectively raises the issue of parenting time to the court has hired an attorney, and R.C. 3119.08 protect people who cannot hire attorneys (by automatically providing parenting time). This means that trial courts (that make decisions) and appeals courts (that review decisions by the trial courts) do not hear complaints about violations of R.C. 3119.08. Anyone who leaves a child support hearing without parenting time and wants to fight it legally, simply hires an attorney and files for parenting time. My argument is that it should not take resources for a court action for a father to be able to see their child.

R.C. 3119.08 is therefore an interesting law. It orders courts to change their approach to unmarried fathers and may have sweeping effects (children of poor fathers having more regular contact between both parents; parents starting off with some kind of balance of power). But, despite its booming potential, the law is completely silent in its effect on the system.

The unfortunate lesson from this is that laws are applied by lawyers, and laws that attempt to bypass lawyers are not applied.

By guest, Nov 19 2015 07:15PM


I am a criminal defense and family law attorney in Marion, Ohio. I hope to use this blog to broadcast the insights that I have gathered from practicing in various areas of law and dipsute resolution.

First, a little about me: I went to law school to practice dispute resolution; however, I have built a reputation as a stubborn litigator. I prefer to reach a fair resolution that gives both sides what they are really after. But, if the opposing party is not being reasonable, I have no problem taking cases to trial. I enjoy the challenge of trial strategy and practice, but many of my clients who go to trial (even the big winners) never seem truly satisfied. Perhaps it is that the other party remains as unreasonable after trial as they were before trial.

Next, I believe in hard work and honesty. I do not unrealistically inflate my clients' expectations about the legal system and will be candid and forthcoming about the strengths and weaknesses about my clients' cases. At the same time, I strive to exceed my clients' expectations of my own efforts and dedication to advocating for their interests.

I hope you find the posts in this blog to be helpful. I am plenty busy and have trouble turning down people in need, so hopefully people reading this will be able to apply my insights to cut down on or avoid legal expenses.

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