In divorce proceedings, one of the most important (and possibly contentious) issues involves the determination of child custody rights. In Ohio, the term “ parental rights and responsibilities” refers to a parent’s custody and control rights of one’s child. Parents have a fundamental right to the care, custody, and control of their children. Despite this fundamental right, the primary focus of the law is on the best interest of the child, not the parents, when allocating child custody in a divorce proceeding.
Ohio Child Custody Laws
In a divorce, legal separation, or annulment proceeding, if the parties cannot agree on custody of a child or children then the court will step in. In determining parental rights and responsibilities for the care of a child, a court may award sole custody to one parent or shared parenting (joint custody), or it may choose to award custody to a relative or a juvenile court. Under sole custody, one parent is designated the residential parent and legal custodian.
In a shared parenting plan, either parent (jointly or separately) may petition the court for joint custody. The request must include a shared parenting plan to determine how the parents propose to share custody. A shared parenting plan must include provisions covering all factors that are relevant to the care of the children, including, but not limited to, provisions covering factors such as physical living arrangements, child support obligations, provision for the children’s medical and dental care, school placement, and the parent with which the children will be physically located during holidays.
A court will approve only one shared parenting plan and may make any changes to the plan if the changes are in the best interest in the child. Factors that a court will consider include the ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly concerning the child; the ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent; and history of, or potential for, child abuse, spousal abuse, other domestic violence, or parental kidnapping by either parent.
Finally, while parents have a fundamental right to the care, custody, and control of their child, a court may award legal custody to another relative or juvenile court if a court finds that the parents are unsuitable and it would be in the best interest of the child.
Best Interest of the Child
If a court does not enter a shared parenting plan, the court must take into account the best interest of the child when deciding how to award child custody. As part of this process, a court may consider the wishes and concerns of the child. The best interest of the child also includes:
- The wishes of the child’s parents regarding the child’s care;
- The child’s interaction and interrelationship with the child’s parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
- The mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation;
- The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights; and
- Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments.
These are but a few of the factors that a court will consider in determining the best interest of a child. An experienced Ohio child custody attorney should be contacted to discuss these factors further and how a court will apply them.
Contact a Cleveland Family Law Attorney
If you have any questions regarding your child custody rights, a Cleveland family law attorney can help provide answers. Laubacher & Co.’s attorneys can help you develop a creative and flexible parenting plan to ensure that you can take an active role in your child’s life and education. Contact a Cleveland family law attorney at Laubacher & Co. for a free consultation.