One of the most important and most challenging issues when a couple divorces is minimizing the impact of the divorce on minor children and ensuring that each parent maintains a healthy relationship with the kids. Ideally, the parents will be able to agree on a division of time and responsibilities that works well for everyone. However, divorce courts are often called upon to make determinations about child custody. Which parent the children will live with, how much time they’ll spend with the other parent, and how other responsibilities are divided.
Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities
In Ohio, what most people think of as “custody” and “visitation” is legally termed “allocation of parental rights and responsibilities.” While the specific details will vary from family to family, there are two basic structures for parenting orders. The court may designate one parent as the residential parent and legal custodian of the children, then specifically divide other rights and responsibilities such as visitation and child support. Or, if the parties request it, the court may enter a shared parenting order.
The court may accept a parenting plan submitted jointly by the parties, approve a parenting plan submitted by one party, or craft its own parenting plan. In making any of these determinations, the standard is the same: the best interest of the child or children.
The Best Interest of the Child Standard
In determining the arrangement that is in the best interest of the child or children, the court may consider any relevant information. However, Ohio law sets forth specific factors to be considered. These include:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes and concerns of the child
- The child’s relationship with family members, including parents, siblings, and anyone else who significantly affects the interests of the child
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The mental health of everyone involved
- The physical health of everyone involved
- The likelihood that each parent will honor and facilitate the court’s order regarding parenting time
- Whether either parent has failed to make child support payments
- Any issues of child abuse or neglect
- Whether either parent has moved or intends to move out of state
Shared Parenting in Ohio
Generally, it is in the best interest of the children for each parent to remain involved, spending time wit the children and contributing to their upbringing. However, shared parenting only works if the parents are able to work together in the best interest of the children. Therefore, a court considering a shared parenting order will also consider factors such as:
- The ability of the parents to cooperate and make joint decisions regarding the children
- The ability of each parent to encourage and foster the children’s relationship with the other parent
- Any history of or potential for abuse
- The geographic proximity of the parents to one another
- Recommendations of the guardian ad litem, if one has been appointed
Establishing Custody and Visitation in Ohio
Whether you’re negotiating an agreement with your spouse or fighting for your parental rights in court, the process is delicate and requires a thorough understanding of the legal and practical factors involved. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help to:
- Reduce stress by ensuring that you know what to expect at every turn
- Ensure that you have assembled the most important evidence
- Are prepared to negotiate effectively or present a convincing case in court
- Reduce tensions by negotiating through a legal representative
- Ensure that you fully understand the ramifications of your agreement
If you have children and are preparing to divorce or are in the process of divorce, give yourself the benefit of a seasoned advocate in your corner. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys right now.