Child Custody Guide: What Divorcing Parents Need to Know

Divorces involving minor children inherently raise unique considerations, many (but not all) of which have to do with establishing child support and child custody. While child support determinations are largely directed by the Ohio child support guidelines, there is far less rigidity around the establishment of parents' custody and visitation rights.

That said, parents in Ohio are not free to structure custody and visitation plans as they desire. There are limits to the options that are available, and all custody determinations must be made in the "best interests" of the child or children involved.

If you live in the Cleveland area, have minor children, and are preparing to go through a divorce, here are five key facts you need to know:

1. What Matter Most - "Best Interests" Factors

Under Ohio law, there are a variety of factors that must be considered in determining the best interests of a child. While the parents' and the child's wishes are all relevant, they're not necessarily determinative.

Spouses who are negotiating an amicable divorce must give due weight to all of the relevant factors; and, if they cannot reach a mutually-agreeable resolution, a judge will apply these same factors to decide what is in the best interests of their child or children.

You can read about the relevant factors in: Understanding the "Best Interests of the Child" Standard.

2. There are Different Types of Child Custody

When most people use the term "custody," what they are actually referring to is the concept of "physical custody." In Ohio, physical custody is the right to physically reside with a child and provide for his or her basic needs. However, there is also "legal custody," which is the right to make decisions about a child's health, education, religion, and developmental needs.

Physical and legal custody can both be either "sole" or "shared." When one parent has sole physical custody, the other will typically have visitation (or "parenting time") rights. However, shared physical custody is an option as well; and, unless there is a strong justification to the contrary, divorced parents will commonly share legal custody in both sole and shared physical custody arrangements.

Learn more about the types of custody here: Child Custody & Parenting Rights FAQs.

3. If Necessary, You Can Seek Temporary Custody During Your Divorce

If you are your spouse have separated, you can obtain a temporary custody order that establishes your respective parenting rights while your divorce is pending. It is important that you not try to prevent your spouse from seeing your children in the absence of a court order.

Likewise, if your spouse is interfering with your relationship with your children, it will be important for you to obtain a temporary order upholding your legal rights.

4. Your Parenting Plan Should be as Comprehensive as Possible

If you and your spouse are able to work together, your divorce will culminate with the creation of a "parenting plan" that establishes your respective rights and obligations.

Once your plan receives court approval, it will become binding, and both you and your spouse will need to strictly comply with the terms as agreed.

In order to avoid unnecessary disputes after your divorce, you will want to make sure that your parenting plan is as comprehensive as possible. This includes special provisions for holidays, methods of communication, and transportation-related expenses.

5. Your Parenting Plan Should Be Considered Final

While life changes happen, with regard to establishing a parenting plan, you want to approach the process with as much foresight as possible.

Although it is possible to modify a parenting plan, the courts only allow modifications under limited circumstances, and you do not want to find yourself in a position where you are forced to live with an untenable custody arrangement.

For more information, please visit our page: Ohio Laws and Rules for Child Custody.

Speak with a Cleveland Divorce Attorney at Laubacher & Co.

If you are preparing to go through a divorce with children, our attorneys can help you make informed decisions about custody and parenting time. We offer free initial consultations, and evening and weekend appointments are available. To schedule an appointment at your convenience, please call our Cleveland family law offices at 440-462-1882 or send us a message online today.

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