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Child Custody In Ohio

How is child custody decided in Ohio? These issues are decided by domestic relations and juvenile courts in Ohio.  For disputes between parents, the domestic relations courts in Medina County, Summit County and Cuyahoga County hear such cases.  In Wayne County, Ohio, the domestic relations court hears child custody cases in divorce and post-divorce decree cases.  The Wayne County juvenile court hears child custody cases between unmarried parents.  For purposes of this article, we will refer to all these courts as the Ohio child custody court.   The Ohio child custody court must decide between sole custody to one parent and shared parenting with both parents. The parent who is awarded sole custody becomes the child’s legal custodian and will make decisions about non-emergency medical care, education, religion, discipline and extra-curricular activities.  The sole legal custodian must let the non-custodial parent know about such matters but will make the final decisions.   (more…)

When Can Grandparents Take Custody Of A Child?

When can grandparents take custody of a child? A nonparent can be awarded custody of a minor child if the court makes a finding of parental unsuitability. Parental unsuitability can be determined if the "parent abandoned the child; contractually relinquished custody of the child; that the parent has become totally incapable of supporting or caring for the child; or that an award of custody to the parent would be detrimental to the child.” Parents who are suitable persons have a paramount right to the custody of their minor children.   In other words, parents have a right to care for and raise their children. In order to infringe on that right, someone must first demonstrate that the parent is unsuitable, commonly known as unfit parents. A typical case of parental unsuitability is when the parents leave the children with the grandparents and disappear for a long period of time. In such an instance, the grandparent will likely be able to prove parental unsuitability and may be able to obtain custody of the children.   (more…)

What Factors Does A Court Use To Decide Child Custody?

What factors does a court use to decide child custody and parenting time?  The following from Ohio Revised Code 3109.051 (R.C. 3109.051) sets forth the factors:  
  1. The prior interaction and interrelationships of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, and with the person who requested companionship or visitation if that person is not the parent, sibling, or relative of the child;
  2. The geographical location of the residence of each parent and the distance between those residences, and if the person is not a parent, the geographical location of that person’s residence and the distance between that person’s residence and the child’s residence;
  3. The child’s and parents’ available time, including, but not limited to, each parent’s employment schedule, the child’s school schedule, and the child’s and the parents’ holiday and vacation schedule;
  4. The age of the child;
  5. The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
  6. If the court has interviewed the child in chambers, pursuant to division (C) of this section, regarding the wishes and concerns of the child as to the parenting time by the parent who is not the residential parent or companionship or visitation by the grandparent, relative, or other person who requested companionship or visitation, as to a specific parenting time or visitation schedule, or as to other parenting time or visitation matters, the wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court;
  7. The health and safety of the child;
  8. The amount of time that will be available for the child to spend with siblings;
  9. The mental and physical health of all parties;
  10. Each parent’s willingness to reschedule missed parenting time and to facilitate the other parent’s parenting time rights, and with respect to a person who requested companionship or visitation, the willingness of the person to reschedule missed visitation;
  11. In relation to parenting time, whether either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or neglected child; whether either parent, in a case in which a child has been adjudicated an abused child or neglected child, previously has been determined to be the perpetrator of the abusive or neglectful act that is the basis of the adjudication; and whether there is reason to believe that either parent has acted in a manner resulting in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
  12. In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, whether the person previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or neglected child; whether the person, in a case in which a child has been adjudicated an abused child or neglected child, previously has been determined to be the perpetrator of the abusive or neglectful act that is the basis of the adjudication; whether either parent previously convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of section 2919.25 of the Revised Code involving a victim who at the time of the commission of the offense was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding; whether either parent previously has been convicted of an offense involving a victim who at the time of the commission was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding and caused physical harm to the victim in the commission of the offense; and whether there is reason to believe that the person has acted in a manner resulting in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
  13. Whether the residential parent or one of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s rights to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court;
  14. Whether either parent has established a residence or is planning to establish a residence outside this state;
  15. In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, the wishes and concerns of the child’s parents, as expressed by them to the court;
  16. Any other factor in the best interest of the child.
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Can I Record My Child’s Wishes?

One may ask, “Can I record my child’s wishes?”  The answer is no.  Ohio Revised Code 3109.04 (R.C. 3109.04) specifically prohibits the court from considering such evidence:   “No person shall obtain or attempt to obtain from a child a written or recorded statement or affidavit setting forth the child’s wishes and concerns regarding the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities concerning the child.  No court, in determining the child’s best interest for purposes of making its allocation of the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the child or for purposes of resolving any issues related to the making of that allocation, shall accept or consider a written or recorded statement or affidavit that purports to set forth the child’s wishes and concerns regarding those matters.”   (more…)

Parental Rights

I often get asked what parental rights parents have when they are married, unmarried or have a child support order in place.  These are the common questions and the answers to those questions.   What is a putative father?   A putative father is a man who may be a child’s biological father but who is not married to the child’s mother at the time the child is born or who has not established paternity of the child in a court or administrative hearing.   Does a putative father have parental rights?   (more…)