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How Ohio Child Custody Is Awarded: The Custody Process



Anyone seeking custody of a child in Ohio needs to understand how Ohio courts make child custody decisions. The process begins when one or both parents file a motion and a plan for custody of a child or children.

If the motion is part of, or the result of, a divorce, it is filed in a Ohio Domestic Relations Court. If the custody dispute is between unmarried parents, the motion is filed in an Ohio Juvenile Court. An Ohio child custody lawyer can help the parents file the motion correctly.

If the parents agree, they may file a motion and plan together. The court will review this plan to see if it is in the best interests of the child or children. If it is, the court will approve it. If it is not, the court will tell the parents what needs to be changed and ask them to resubmit it.

If the parents do not agree, they will file separate motions and plans. The court will review them both and decide which is in the best interests of the child. Even the one determined to be best may require changes before the court approves it.

Best Interests under Ohio Child Custody Law

Before a court will rule on what is in the best interests of a child, it does relevant research. It may order the parents and the children to submit to medical, psychological, and psychiatric examinations.

Ohio child custody process also permits the court to investigate the parents in areas including:

  • Earning ability
  • Financial worth
  • Family relations
  • Character
  • Past conduct

Research into past conduct can affect a courts decision about best interests if the court discovers that either parent has pleaded guilty to or been convicted of a criminal offense that resulted in child neglect. The same is true for sexually oriented offenses committed against members of the family or household.

Types of Custody in Ohio

While the Ohio child custody action is pending, a court may award temporary custody. This indicates who will be responsible for the child until the final court decision is made. That final decision will be either for one parent to have sole or primary custody, or for both parents to share custody.

With sole or primary custody, the court says that one parent has legal custody of the child and that the child will live in that parents household. As long as the court has not found a reason to deny the other parent contact with the child, that other parent will maintain rights, such as continued interaction with the child, and responsibilities, such as payment to support the child.

With shared custody, the parents divide the physical and legal care of the child according to the court-approved parenting plan. The division of rights and responsibilities is not necessarily even.

Child Custody Law in Ohio: Compliance

After a judge signs the Ohio child custody order and files it with the court clerk, both parents must follow the plan. The court will amend that order only if something occurs to change the childs best interests.