Cuyahoga County Clerk David Mahoney told The Huffington Mail that the divorce statute has been “a major issue” for many couples in recent years.
The county has had to take many steps to clarify what is meant by “abandonment” and “custody” of children after a divorce.
The couples involved in the current lawsuit are from Ohio, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, and Delaware.
Mahoney said he has been trying to help the couples since the first time he filed the case.
“I was hoping it would be a quick decision, but it has been challenging, and it is really, really important for our community to have that type of clarity,” Mahoney, a Democrat, said.
Mahone’s office is handling the case through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
He said he is working with county attorneys in the four states where he is represented to help them “fully understand the impact of this on families, on children, and on our state.”
Cuyahogans who have lost custody of their children are currently appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court, which is expected to hear oral arguments in the case this week.
The divorce statute states that if a couple decides to divorce after having children, it is considered “abortive,” meaning it does not go to court, and the couple can only request an order of abatement and the child can stay with the couple.
But the law also states that “a child’s best interests are not in any way prejudiced” and a child can be considered “moved” after the divorce.
Mahoney said that as of March, his office had taken more than 6,000 requests to request the court abatements, and that “over half” of those were in response to a divorce filing in 2014.
The statute does not provide for a presumption that children remain with a parent, and in the past, couples were able to challenge the state’s authority to move children back to the state of the couple’s choosing.
“The issue is really this notion of how do you get a court to change their mind?”
“That’s really what this is about.”