Cleveland Family Law Attorneys

Parenting Time Considerations for Divorces Involving Domestic Violence

In situations involving domestic violence, establishing parenting time during a divorce requires consideration of a unique set of factors. When there is a concern that one parent may be abusive toward a child or former spouse after the divorce becomes final, the Ohio courts use a Parenting Plan Continuum to determine what type of arrangement will serve the best interests of the children involved. As summarized in Domestic Violence & Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities, published by the Supreme Court of Ohio:

“The presence of domestic violence impacts meaningful allocation of parental rights and responsibilities and enforcement of the parenting plan. The Parenting Plan Continuum offers guidance for each type of parenting-time arrangement, including the level of violence, risk factors, and safety concerns relevant in allocating parenting time. Generally, shared parenting . . . or unsupervised parenting time [is] appropriate for families where there is no significant history of or only isolated acts of domestic violence[, while] suspended contact or supervised parenting time is recommended for families who have experienced serious abuse, coercive control, and stalking.”

Establishing Parenting Time Using the Parenting Plan Continuum

Parenting Time Considerations

The Parenting Plan Continuum recognizes five specific types of parenting time arrangements that may be appropriate in circumstances involving domestic violence. Anyone of the five may be considered most appropriate depending on the circumstances involved, and parents who have experienced domestic violence should carefully review their options with an experienced attorney.

The five types of parenting plans available in divorces involving domestic violence include:

1. Co-Parenting

Under the Parenting Plan Continuum, co-parenting may be appropriate in circumstances where there is a “low risk of lethality to a parent and child.” Lethality risk factors include (but are not limited to):

  • Access to firearms or other weapons
  • Child abuse
  • Controlling behavior
  • Escalating violence
  • Jealousy or obsession
  • Threats and stalkingCo-Parenting

According to the Supreme Court of Ohio, co-parenting is most likely to be successful if the parents’ circumstances involve:

  • No significant history of violence, abuse, or threats
  • “Isolated minor acts of violence” at separation
  • Evidence of remorse or accepting responsibility
  • Successful completion of substance abuse or mental health treatment or counseling, if ordered
  • Low conflict and continuing ability to communicate
  • Recognition of the children’s needs and similar approaches to childrearing
  • A “civil and child-focused” post-separation relationship

2. Parallel Parenting

Parallel Parenting

The Parenting Plan Continuum describes parallel parenting as a custody and visitation plan in which “each parent has separate and specific responsibilities,” and states that this option is generally best where there is “moderate to low risk of lethality to a parent and low risk of lethality to a child.” This may be characterized by:

  • Isolated acts of violence not characterized as coercive control
  • No current violence or explicit threats of violence
  • Evidence of accepting responsibility
  • Successful completion of substance abuse or mental health treatment or counseling, if ordered
  • Incompatible approaches to childrearing

3. Unsupervised Parenting Time With or Without Supervised Exchanges

In circumstances where a non-custodial parent presents “moderate to low risk of lethality to a parent and child,” unsupervised parenting time with or without supervised exchanges may be most appropriate. According to the Supreme Court, this is likely to be most successful if:

  • There is a history of violence, abuse, or threats but the non-custodial parent does not present a risk to the safety or well-being of their children while parenting
  • The offending parent has accepted responsibility for the violence, abuse, or threats
  • The offending parent is actively participating in or has successfully completed any court-ordered treatment or counseling
  • The risk of fear or violence only arises during parent-to-parent interactions
  • There is a moderate level of conflict between the parents
  • There is no present risk of child abuse and the child does not fear the non-custodial parent

The parenting plan includes “[c]learly defined and readily enforceable parenting terms and conditions, tailored to provide safety.”Unsupervised Parenting Time

4. Supervised Parenting Time

The Ohio courts have taken the position that it generally in a child’s best interests to spend time with both parents, even in circumstances where a non-violent parent would typically want to seek sole custody without visitation. The Supreme Court generally recommends supervised parenting time in circumstances where a non-custodial parent “poses high to moderate risk of lethality to a parent and child.” This may be characterized by:

Supervised Parenting Time

  • A history of violence, abuse, and threats
  • Ongoing violence, abuse, and threats
  • Failure to take full responsibility
  • Current substance abuse or acute mental illness of the non-custodial parent
  • Kidnapping threats and/or an established risk of child abuse
  • The child exhibits a fear of the non-custodial parent and/or has been traumatized by abuse
  • A structured environment for supervised parenting time is available in the community

5. Suspended Contact

Finally, in cases involving a high risk of lethality, the Ohio courts may order parenting time which involves “no physical contact and limited, if any, communication between parents.” Factors that may entitle a custodial parent to seek suspended contact include:

  • A significant history of violence, abuse, and threats characterized by coercive control
  • Ongoing violence, abuse, and threats characterized by coercive control
  • Domestic violence resulting in serious physical harm
  • Limited or no remorse and no willingness to change or accept responsibility
  • Severe current substance abuse or mental illness and little or no participation in treatment or counseling
  • Proven instances of child abuse and/or kidnapping attempts
  • Fear of the non-custodial parent or refusal to visit the non-custodial parent due to severe trauma or abuse
  • Non-compliance with the terms of supervised parenting time.

Suspended Contact

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If you are considering a divorce and would like more information about the protections available to you and your children, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with one of our experienced Cleveland attorneys in confidence, please call (440) 336-8687 or tell us how to reach you online today.

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