Understanding the "Best Interests of the Child" Standard

If you're a parent considering divorce, one of your most urgent questions may be what will happen to your children. Understandably, this is one of the most worrisome issues for parents. It can also be one of the most contentious issues that divorcing couples have to face. To determine which parent should be awarded the care of the child, the judge will use the "best interests of the child" standard. The judge's decisions about these factors will form the basis for the custody order, decide whether an award of shared parenting will be made, and determine whether a modification to a custody decree should be granted.

What is the "Best Interests of the Child" Standard in Ohio

In Ohio, the terms "child custody" and "child support" have been replaced with the phrase "the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities." The "best interests of the child" standard has been implemented to help judges decide how to make this allocation.

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The best interests of the child standard requires the court to weigh a number of different factors. These factors include:

  • The wishes of the parents, and of the child;
  • How the child interacts with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with them;
  • The mental and physical well-being of each parent;
  • How well adjusted the child is to their current living situation and community;
  • Which parent is more likely to honor the court's orders and custody arrangement, and
  • Whether either parent has disobeyed the court's orders in the past;
  • Whether either parent has been found guilty of abusing the child; and
  • Whether either parent is planning to move out of the state.

It is important to know that the judge hearing your case will not be limited to these factors. The judge can use most any factor that is relevant to the case to decide who should be awarded custody. The recommendations of a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or a case worker from a county children's public services agency may also be taken into account.

Also important to know is that, when allocating parental rights and responsibilities, the court will not give preference to either parent because of their financial resources, nor will it discriminate against either parent because of the same.

"Shared Parenting" and Additional Factors

If one or both of the child's parents requests shared parenting time, the court will consider all of the "best interest" factors discussed above, as well as a number of additional factors. These factors may include:

  • How well the parents will be able to cooperate in raising the child;
  • Whether each parent will encourage a good relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • How close the parents live to each other; and
  • If there is a history of parental kidnapping, violence against the child or one of their parents by the other parent, or other parental misconduct.

Change of Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Life can change quickly: a parent can lose a job or get a new one; a child can change schools; or a living situation can become unstable. Where there has been a change of circumstances that has a direct effect on the child, the Ohio courts may allow for the modification of a child custody decree. Though the court will presume that the current arrangement is preferable to a new one, it will consider the best interests of the child and may issue a modification of the order.

Contact a Cleveland Divorce Attorney

Determining child custody is a sensitive and difficult task, and just one of the many that you may face when going through a divorce. To make sure that you get the best possible arrangement for your children, it's necessary to contact an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the process.Contact an attorney at Laubacher & Co. today for a free initial case consultation. Call (440) 356-5700 or send an email for more information.

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