When a couple decides to end their relationship, they embark on a long and painful journey of untying the life they built together. If the couple has no children and was not married, the split may not be so difficult, but those who do have children and have to contend with Ohio child custody issues often have a rougher time with the process. Having to make difficult decisions about the custody of children is one of the most painful and frustrating things a parent can go through. In the state of Ohio, decisions about Ohio child custody and other Ohio family law issues are guided by one principle – the best interests of the child.
How Child Custody Decisions are Made in Ohio
As mentioned, the best interests of the child involved in a case is the most important factor to the Ohio family court and its judges. State law requires that judges determine the best interests of the child by looking at any and all relevant factors to the case. Additionally, the law does allow the judge to take the parents’ wishes as well as the child’s wishes – as long as the court determines that the child is old enough and has “sufficient reasoning ability”– into consideration when making his or her ruling and also considers what both parents want for the care of the child.
The judge also takes a close look at how the child interacts with both parents as well as any other siblings in the household. The Ohio court system generally does not like to break up siblings or cause any fractures in relationships between the child and other family members. Custody arrangements that support a healthy family interaction and continuity is definitely the preferred option whenever possible.
The actions of both parents are also important in the decision making process. The court system appreciates parents who show that they respect one another and are willing to work together to co-parent their child. Additionally, judges look to determine if both parents support a loving relationship between the child and the other parent. In addition to this, judges also look to see if one parent has continually provided support for the child while the other parent has not – in these cases, custody for the parent supporting the child is generally preferred.
Should there be any instances of sexual or physical abuse from a parent, to either the child or another family member, the judge is tasked with making a custody decision that helps to keep the child safe while also working to provide an agreement in the child’s best interests. Ohio law does not stipulate that the judge cannot show preference of one parent over the other based on gender, occupation, financial status, or other distinguishing factors.
The Best Interests of the Child and Shared Parenting
In the state of Ohio, “joint custody” is most commonly referred to as “shared parenting.” In order for the court to grant a shared parenting custody arrangement, some additional factors must be considered on top of what has been mentioned. One of the main factors the court focuses on include how the parents communicate and cooperate with one another as well as both parents’ willingness to encourage the child to maintain a strong and loving relationship with the other parent.
There are also a number of practical considerations that the judge must make when working toward this decision. These considerations include how the parents go about exchanging the child, if the child will remain in his or her current school district, if the parents’ residences fall within the same school district, and how close the parents live to one another – the greater the distance between the parents’ residences, the more difficult it is to create a shared parenting plan that works.
The court also wants to make sure the child’s legal rights are being protected throughout the entirety of the Ohio child custody case. Should the judge feel that the child needs additional representation and protection, he or she will appoint a guardian, which is often referred to as a “guardian ad litem.” The judge considers this individual’s recommendations when it comes to a shared parenting agreement and possibly any other child custody agreement that may be an option.
Parent Created Child Custody Agreement
Ideally, the court would like the parents to work together and come to a mutual agreement about the Ohio child custody arrangement. This can be done by the parents on their own or with the help of mediation to sort out any issues they cannot agree upon. Generally, as long as the parents’ arrangement upholds the best interests of the child in the eyes of the court, the judge accepts the agreement and makes it a legally binding custody arrangement.
Child Custody Modification in Ohio
Even though the original Ohio child custody agreement may work for both the child and the parents for some time, there may come a point when adjustments to the agreement need to be made. This often happens when the child gets older and his or her needs or schedule changes, or changes may need to be made if one parent has a change in employment or other circumstances. Should both parents agree to the modifications that need to be made and they are in the child’s best interests, the changes will likely be accepted by the court.
However, should the parents not agree on the modifications, the decision needs to be made by the judge. In these cases, the parent wishing to make the modification carries the burden of proving why the change needs to be made and how the change benefits the child. Ohio courts like to keep modifications to custody agreements to a minimum since too many disruptions to the child’s home life can be detrimental. Should the parent be able to prove, beyond any doubt, that the modification is needed, it is generally granted.
Custody and Relocation in Ohio
When one parent has primary Ohio child custody and wishes to relocate, it can often be a difficult decision for the court to make. There are many reasons why a primary custodian may want to relocate, but he or she again must prove that the relocation is necessary and is within the best interests of the child. When making a decision about relocation, the judge looks at the following factors as well as many others to help reach a final decision:
- What is the reason(s) given for relocation?
- What reason is given in protest of the relocation from the other parent?
- What type of relationship does the child have with each parent?
- What benefits will the child see from the relocation?
- How will the relocation affect the custody agreement that is currently in place?
- What types of alternative communication methods are available for the child and the other parent to use to keep continuity in their relationship?
- Who is responsible for paying for these alternative communication methods?