Any custody dispute can be difficult for everyone concerned. It is the responsibility of every parent involved to focus on that fact that children are affected by the ending of their parents’ relationship. If you are getting a divorce or if you are a single parent, you will have to share financial responsibilities and parental rights and develop a new co-parenting relationship. Even if you and your spouse initially agree on the terms of child custody and visitation, it is important to work with an attorney who has the experience to guide you through custody proceedings and the legal ramifications. Often, parents are able to agree on some major issues such as education, medical treatment and religion, but will need assistance in working out arrangements for designating who will be the residential parent legal custodian and respective parenting time.
The standard used in Ohio, as in other states, is that every child custody and parenting plan must be in the best interests of child. "Best interests," however, is a huge umbrella that is affected, in part, by the relation a child has with each parent, the age of the child, the degree to which the arrangement will maintain stability in the child's life, educational opportunities and many more factors.
The court’s preference is for shared parenting, wherein both parents cooperate with one another, each having equal say in the major decisions affecting the child. The court encourages and seeks cooperation between the parents in order for a shared parenting arrangement to be ordered. It is difficult for the court to order full or joint custody to a parent who refuses to cooperate in with the other parent or attempts to alienate the child from the other parent. In rare cases, a judge will meet with the child without the parents present. If necessary to protect the interests of children in a contested custody matter, the parties or the court can appoint a Guardian ad Litem (a representative for the child) to represent the child in the legal proceeding. The costs of the Guardian are borne by the parties. Even if shared parenting is ordered, it does not automatically result in a strict fifty-fifty parenting time with the children.
Unless there extenuating circumstances deemed not to be in the child’s best interests, i.e. a parent has a drug or alcohol abuse problem, sexual abuse, violent tendencies or some other issue, the court will usually award reasonable parenting time to a noncustodial parent based on the belief that it is in the child’s best interests to maintain a close relationship with both parents. As a family law firm, we work hard to see that clients who are noncustodial parents get the maximum opportunity to be with their children. Child custody issues are very fact dependent. As a result, it is necessary to fully investigate the factors that are to be used by the Court in determining the best interest of the children.
Custody & child support
Ohio law does not consider the economic status of a parent to be a factor in determining custody. However, if a parent is living in unsuitable housing or lacking basic necessities such as food, warm, cleanliness, etc, such factors will likely be considered in determining the best interests of the children.