Cleveland Family Law Attorneys

Custody Issues in a Cleveland Divorce

One of the most hotly contested issues in divorces or juvenile cases involves custody of the children. In most Cleveland divorces, one parent will be designated as the residential parent and the other parent will be granted parenting time (previously known as “visitation time”). But custody issues are rarely as simple as deciding whose house the children will reside in or who gets to see the children for which holidays. Some custody issues can become very complex, requiring the assistance of an attorney to ensure one’s parental rights are protected.

How Do I Obtain Custody?

The initial consideration in obtaining custody is whether the parties are married or unmarried. The mother is presumed to be the legal residential parent of the child from the child’s day of birth. If the mother and father of the child were married at the time of the child’s birth, then the father is also presumed to have the same type of parental rights as the mother and both parents have the same rights to the child. If the parent's divorce and cannot agree on who will be the residential parent or a parenting time schedule, the judge in that divorce case will determine these issues.

If the parties are unmarried, however, the case will proceed through the juvenile court process. The father will need to establish his paternity before the court will grant him any parental rights or custody. This can be accomplished, for example, by completing a DNA test. Once paternity has been established, the parties are free to agree to a parenting time schedule. If they cannot, the court will determine which parent will be the residential parent and what parenting time schedule the parties will follow.

How Does the Court Decide Custody Issues

If the court is called upon to make custody-related decisions, the court will make decisions based on what it believes is in the best interests of the child. Sometimes, the court will appoint a “guardian ad litem” – an attorney who advocates for the best interests of the child – to help it make these decisions. The guardian ad litem makes these recommendations by visiting with both parties in their respective homes and meeting with other important people in the child’s life. The guardian ad litem’s opinion may or may not be in agreement with the child’s or parents’ opinions regarding custody. In addition, the court can consider school and medical records, along with statements by parents and others, in making its decision.

Do I Have Visitation Rights as a Grandparent?

Depending on whether the parents are married, grandparents may have visitation rights. If the parents of the child are married and that marriage is intact (i.e., the parents have not divorced), grandparents do not have any rights to visit their grandchildren if one or both of the parent's objects. But if the parents are divorced or are divorcing, if the parents are unmarried, or if one of the parents dies, grandparents can petition the court for companionship or (in some cases) custody. In these cases, the court will grant or deny these requests based on what is in the best interests of the child.

If you have questions regarding custody in Ohio, contact us for a consultation at }.