By Chris Beers...Massillion Independant Staff Writer...Massillion, Ohio
The numbers simply don't match the rhetoric. All three of Stark County's Family Court judges- John Hoffman, David Stucky and Julie Edwards - say they favor shared parenting situations for the children of divorced families.
However, a random samples of 30 contested divorce cases from 1996 - each involving children - indicates that unless the divorcing couple comes up with their own plan, shared parenting is not a likely scenario.
Of the 30 cases - 10 per judge - only four wound up with a shared parenting plan. And in all four of those cases, the divorcing couple put their differences aside to devise a shared parenting plan of their own and presented the court with a signed agreement.
Of the four shared-parenting decisions, Judge Hoffman approved three and Judge Stucky approved one. Judge Edwards did not approve a shared-parenting plan in her 10 samples
In none of the 26 other cases did the Family Court - or its three judges - encourage, devise or order a shared-parenting plan for the children - a situation which most family experts agree is the most healthful for children.
In the 30 cases, the father was named the residential parent in three, with the mother being designated the residential parent in the other 27. Those numbers mirror the national figures of custodial parents being 90 percent moms and 10 percent dads. However, in the the three cases where the father was named the residential parent. no mother was ordered to pay child support for the children.
Instead, two of the custodial fathers were ordered to pay their ex-wives spousal support (alimony of the 1990s). In one case, the father was named the residential parent for his two kids, but was ordered to pay his ex-wife $200.00 a month for the next 6 years. Judge Hoffman signed the order. The ex-wife was not ordered to pay child support even though she received the standard Schedule A visitation privileges that most non-custodial fathers receive.
In a case involving a custodial father from Massillion, he was ordered to pay his ex-wife $400.00 a month in spousal support, The mother was not ordered to help in raising their one child. That order was signed by Judge Edwards. Of the four shared-parenting decisions, three involved dad paying child support, and one of those three had dad paying mom both child and spousal support.
The most expensive case found among the 30 was that of a shared couple who aggreed to a shared parenting plan for their four children. However, dad was ordered to pay mom $2,550.00 per month for the child support and $5000.00 a month in spousal support for the next four years. In another case, where the paternity of the child was never established, dad was ordered to pay $50.00 a month in child support, but received no visitation privileges
In the majority of the 30 divorce cases, mom and dad had already aggreed prior to entering the courtroom as to which one of them would be the residential parent of the children---mom.