Ohio Custody Laws

This page provides information about the Ohio laws that apply to establishment, enforcement and modification of child custody. If you have questions about child support in Ohio, you can speak with one of our attorneys for additional information.

Equality Of Parental Rights And Responsibilities

For purposes of determining parental rights and responsibilities and the place of residence for a child whose parents are living apart, Ohio law starts from the basic premise that the child's mother and father are on equal ground.

Allocating Shared Parenting Rights In A Legal Separation Or Divorce

In Ohio, the courts follow one of two basic procedures for establishing parental rights and responsibilities: First, if neither parent submits a proposed shared parenting plan, the court will allocate custody rights in a manner consistent with the best interests of the children. The court will designate one parent as the children's "residential parent" and "legal custodian," and that parent will be awarded the primary parental rights and responsibilities. The remainder of rights and responsibilities, including child support obligations and visitation rights, will then be allocated between the parents.

Second, if at least one parent submits a proposed shared parenting plan (or if the parents jointly submit a plan), then the court may simply approve the proposed plan so long as it adequately involves both parents and reflects the best interests of the children.

Whenever possible, the courts must ensure the opportunity for both parents to have frequent and continuing contact with their children, unless such contact would not be in the children's best interests.

Determining The Best Interests Of The Child

In any proceeding for establishment or modification of child custody, the Ohio courts are required to make their determinations based upon the best interests of the children involved. If either parent has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a crime involving child neglect, "the court shall consider that fact against naming that parent the residential parent and against granting a shared parenting decree." The Ohio courts will also consider whether either parent has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to child abuse or a sexual offense involving a member of his or her household.

The other factors the Ohio courts consider in determining the best interests of the child include:

  • The wishes of the parents regarding the child's care
  • The wishes of the child, as expressed to the court
  • The child's interaction and interrelationship with his or her parents, siblings and others
  • The child's adjustment to his or her current home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of all persons involved
  • The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time and visitation rights
  • Whether either parent has failed to pay child support
  • Whether either parent has continuously and willfully denied the other parent's right to parenting time
  • Whether either parent has moved or is planning to move out of state

The courts will also consider:

  • The parents' ability to cooperate and make joint decisions with respect to the child
  • Each parent's ability to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other parent
  • Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence or parental kidnapping
  • The geographic proximity of the parents as it relates to their shared parenting
  • If the child has a guardian ad litem, the recommendation of the guardian

Custody Rights Of Unmarried Mothers

With only limited exceptions, unmarried mothers are deemed to be their children's sole residential parent and legal custodian until an Ohio court issues an order to the contrary. When establishing custody rights regarding children born to unmarried parents, the courts generally apply the same standards that apply in a divorce.

Modification Of Child Custody Rights

Under Ohio law, the courts can only modify a final child custody decree if there has been a change in circumstances regarding, (i) the child, (ii) the child's residence or (iii) either parent, and the modification would be in the best interests of the child. To request a modification, either parent can file a petition with the court.

Speak To A Lawyer

At Laubacher & Co., we are a team of experienced attorneys that is passionate about helping Ohio parents fight for the custody rights they desire and protect the best interests of their children. If you are preparing for a divorce or legal separation, or if you have any other questions about child custody, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.