In Ohio, decisions about child custody, parental rights, and parental responsibilities are guided first and foremost by the best interest of the child, which is discerned by considering into a number of factors. These include:
- The mental and physical health of each parent and the child/children
- Whether each parent will facilitate regular visitation and a loving relationship between the child/children and the other parent
- The ability of each parent to cooperate in raising the child/children
- The relationship of each parent to the child/children, and the relationship of each child to their siblings or other family members
- Where each parent lives, and whether either parent is planning on moving
- The child’s relationship to their community, home, and/or school
- The child’s needs, and each parent’s ability to provide for those needs
- The preferences or wishes of each parent, as well as those of the children.
The court encourages parents to come to a mutually agreed upon custody arrangement and parenting plan, to be submitted for court approval. If they are unable to do so on their own, a custody arrangement and parenting plan is worked out through court processes. Preference is given to joint custody arrangements, and parents who decide on joint custody tend to have more leeway when it comes to their parenting plan.
In cases where joint custody is not possible, one parent is usually granted custody, while the other is usually granted visitation rights. The parent that is deemed most capable of caring for a child’s emotional, mental, physical, educational, and developmental needs is more likely to be granted physical custody.
What can prevent a parent from getting custody?
Several things can damage a parent’s custodial chances. Anything that is generally considered counter to the child’s best interest will work against a parent’s chances at custody. For instance, if a parent lives in an environment that is not suitable for children, or has a romantic partner or cohabitating family member who may be dangerous to children, it may hinder the parent’s chances of gaining custody. A history of abuse may also hinder a parent’s chances of gaining custody. Any parent who has been arrested for child abuse, neglect, or molestation will not be granted custody, and will only be allowed visitation with a social worker.
Can custody be decided based on who has more money?
No. The State of Ohio prohibits the court from considering either parent’s financial condition or resources when deciding custody. The court may not award custody to one parent exclusively because they have more income or assets.
Does a child’s preference play a role in determining custody?
When determining custody, the court does consider the preferences of children who are considered mature enough to offer a preference. However, children do not have the right to make their own custody decisions. Judges sometimes opt to interview children privately to get a sense of what their preferences are.
Can custody orders be changed once they are determined by the court?
The court will only agree to change established custody orders under certain circumstances. Namely, a custody order will only be changed if one or both parents can show a change in circumstances since the order was issued that necessitates the change, and can also show that their proposed changes would be more beneficial than harmful to the child.