Questioning whether a judge’s order is illegal isn’t something that Ohio residents are used to thinking about. However, in Cleveland’s divorce court I’m getting ready to do just that with the motion I sent to a magistrate.
 
Years ago, I was a defendant in a divorce case and paid over $21,000 to court-ordered personnel that I never agreed to hire.
 
I’m a defendant again in a parenting plan case, and today I asked the court NOT to assign a guardian ad litem in our case, or at least not order me to hire him. Moreover, if either request is denied, I asked the court to give me a written findings of facts and conclusions of law supporting the court’s decision.  A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a court-appointed individual who is supposedly empowered to tell the judge what is in the best interest of children. In our county, GAL’s are paid $150/hour. 
 
In my motion to the court today I wrote, “I object to a GAL being assigned to advocate for our son’s best interest because I am a fit parent who is capable of acting on behalf of our son’s best interest; I have not been found to be an unfit parent and object to having any Court-ordered agents interfering with my rights as a fit parent.”
 
The judges in the Ohio Court of Common Pleas Division of Domestic Relations (i.e. divorce judges), routinely make temporary custody orders without even hearing testimony, and their orders deprive parents of their everyday access to their own children. There is a great deal of  case law in federal courts showing that a parent’s fundamental right to live with, and raise his or her own children, is so fundamental that state cannot interfere unless the state proves the parent to be unfit by clear and convincing evidence.
 
Before grounds for divorce have even been proven to exist, sometimes a judge will make temporary parenting orders with the cooperation of lawyers who coerce parties to agree to a temporary order. In cases in which one party has become hard-hearted and wants to renege on his or her marriage promises, the other party (who wants to keep the family together) is told that he or she must agree to a temporary custody and support plan because “that is how we do it,” or “this is the only way to see your children,” or “this is the only way to get any financial support.” 
 
What the lawyers in my courthouse failed to tell me was that the Ohio legislators never intended to give a Court power to grant divorce unless both parties wanted to divorce, or unless a Defendant was guilty of some grave offense such as grave abuse, or adultery.  When the legislator, Alan Norris, passed no-fault divorce in Ohio, he said “This bill does not call for an easy divorce system similar to California’s “no-fault” divorce. …  Now that kind of one-sided procedure offends my sense of justice — it took both parties to enter into the marriage, both should be involved in deciding whether to terminate it” (See Pro-families Ohio).  The lawyers never told me that martial abandonment is a crime and that I could get financial support without filing for divorce.
 
For parties that don’t have money to hire their own lawyer to defend themselves and have the case dismissed because grounds don’t exist, the court appointment of guardian ad litem is a very effective way to coerce one who doesn’t want divorce to agree to a divorce.  A pro-se Defendant who is willing to navigate his own way through court, cannot afford the $150 hourly rate of the GAL’s.  One day for a pre-trial event in the hallways of the courthouse can accrue GAL fees of $1200. On the clerk of court’s website, I found that liens were put on non-requesting parties making them hire GAL’s ($4,113.00 case DR279650, $3,911.12 case DR92222029, 5,340.26 DR11335181, and $3,523.50 DR00275307).
 
I’m dumbfounded that any normal parent would passively stand by when a total stranger is supposedly given the power to determine what is in the best interest of your children, and then starts recommending that your children be taken away from you. There is no way that you would be pleased to hire the stranger to recommend that your children be taken away from you when you are a capable fit parent.
 
For spouses that count on their partner to uphold the marriage promises, you need to see how the local judge treats me. Will they appoint a guardian ad litem who supposedly will be empowered to know what is best for my children; will they order me to hire this person?
 
With the non-profit educational organization, Mary’s Advocates, I uphold marriage against unilateral no-fault divorce and we publicize resources for defending marriage on the “Pro-Families Ohio” webpage. 
 
Spero News columnist Bai Macfarlane is the founder of Mary's Advocates.

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