[A note from Anne: I was honored to have Ohio law firm Slater & Zurz invite me to write a guest post for their excellent blog, and thought readers here would find it useful as well.]
Although men and women are technically equal in America, realists know that they are not. The vast majority of HVAC technicians are still men; the vast majority of secretaries are still women.
I count myself among the most gritty of realists so I’m going to summarize some hard truths for fathers facing an Ohio divorce court.
When you enter divorce court as a father, know that you are a man in the metaphorical secretarial pool. Most metropolitan counties in Ohio are at least somewhat sensitive to the fact that, with the single exception of breastfeeding, anything mothers can do, fathers can do, too.
So, know that you are starting out behind. Know that just how far behind you are starting depends upon the age of the child, the emotional make-up of both parents, and the phase of the moon. Know your plan to play catch-up and be prepared for these major issues a father can expect to face in a divorce:
The Best Interests of The Child
Understand that the gold standard in Ohio parenting cases is to determine the “best interests of the child.” I don’t know what “best interests” means, and neither does any one else. Ohio lists more than a dozen factors to consider in a best interests determination, but the bottom line? Everybody thinks they know how to raise children. “Best interests” is ultimately a matter of opinion. Understand that Ohio parenting cases focus on the big picture and not fine detail, and that this generally helps fathers. Understand the many aspects of your relationship with your child and recognize the mother’s strengths as well.
Expect Suspicion But Don’t Take It Personally
Males still commit the majority of violent crimes in America and the courts know it. In my experience, if a father can get past this barrier, his chances of success increase significantly. Fathers need to do more than not act angry. Fathers can’t even look angry. Expect to be held to a higher standard because your anger is generally more dangerous.
Be Prepared To Pay
Unless your spouse earns as much or more than what you earn, you will almost certainly be paying child support, even if you have the child as much as the mother. Ohio operates on a percentage of income calculation, and this generally means the father is the bank. You can argue for a deviation, but be prepared to be accused of just caring about the money. It’s too easy a shot for the other side not to take.
Expect These Types of Questions
You will be asked intrusive questions in a brusque manner by investigators and possibly even the Judge. Divorce is a hard-hitting, fast paced practice and everyone is a little jaded.
Focus on Your Child(ren)
Focus on your child’s needs if you don’t get what you want. If you’re frustrated, angry and bitter, your child will be even more so. Focus on the future if you don’t get what you want. Custody battles are like a land war—sometimes you regroup and live to fight another day.
Focus on your child’s needs if you do get what you want. If you’re a bad winner, your child will sympathize with the mother. Even if you “win,” know that mothers are powerful and children are loyal.
Things have changed since I started practice in 1991. Don’t lose heart.