In Ohio, child custody is determined based upon “the best interest of the child.” A court arrives at the best interest of the child by considering the following factors found in R.C. 3109.04(F)(1) including:
(a) the wishes of the child’s parents regarding the child’s care;
(b) the wishes of the child (under certain circumstances);
(c) the child’s interaction and interrelationship with the child’s parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
(d) the child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school and community;
(e) the mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation;
(f) the parent more likely to honor and facilitate court approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights;
(g) whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments, including all arrearages that are required of that parent pursuant to a child support order;
(h) whether either parent or any member of that parent’s household has been convicted of or pled guilty to certain criminal offenses (ie: domestic violence) or any offenses which have resulted in the child being an abused or neglected child (as defined by state law);
(i) whether either parent has denied the other parent visitation or parenting time;
(j) whether either parent is planning to establish a residence outside of the state;
If custody has previously been allocated and a party is seeking a change of custody; the party seeking the change must prove a “substantial change in circumstances.” The requirement of a substantial change in circumstances prevents parents from returning to court to re-litigate custody unless a major change has occurred.
Shared Parenting is also a desirable option for parents under certain circumstances. A court is more likely to award shared parenting to parents who cooperate and make decisions jointly as well as those parents who live closely together. R.C.3109.04(F)(2) requires courts to evaluate whether shared parenting is in a child's best interest based upon the following factors:
(a) The ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly, with respect to the children;
(b) The ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
(c) Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, other domestic violence, or parental kidnapping by either parent;
(d) The geographic proximity of the parents to each other, as the proximity relates to the practical considerations of shared parenting;
(e) The recommendation of the guardian ad litem of the child, if the child has a guardian ad litem.
Often in child custody cases, a guardian ad litem will need to be appointed by the court. A GAL is usually an attorney who is charged with making a recommendation as to what is in a child’s best interest. Retainers for a GAL can be upward of $800 and are usually split by the parties, although the judge or magistrate is free to allocate the costs.
If you are facing a case involving child custody it is vital that you retain the services of an attorney with experience handling these types of cases. If you wish to discuss your case please contact my office.