This topic is very interesting to me, being a child of divorced parents and seeing the custody battle first hand. In general, this topic may get confusing, as there are different scenarios that call for the applicable laws. For instance, child custody rights vary depending on if the couple in question was married or not, whether the children are considered old enough (yet under 18 years of age) to contribute input to their custody rights, and many other scenarios.  After the parent is chosen, visitation must also be discussed, making this a very dynamic topic to discuss.

When parents are unmarried, the mother automatically has sole custody of the child. Couples may utilize mediation techniques to settle visitation for the father if the mother wishes, although it is not necessary. The same does not hold if the court rules either parent sole custody during a hearing, visitation may be discussed if the judge issues such as part of the court order. During a hearing, however, all of this would be displayed at the beginning of proceedings as both parents come to court with their custodial solution and the judge weighs all options. It is also important to note, that when a husband and wife are living apart or divorced, they are treated equal in the court of law. This means that preference is not given to either parent, unlike in the unmarried model where the mother has priority of the child.

Ohio chooses custody primarily off of the “best interests of the child”.  At the age of 12, children used to be able to pick which parent they wished to live with, however that is no longer Ohio law.  Now, the law simply allows a child’s wish to be taken into consideration by the court. It is important to note that children’s opinions often play a major role during custody battles.  The court conducts interviews in private so the child may share their concerns and opinions regarding custody, and it is a proceeding that may be requested by any given parent.

Under Oho Revised Code 3109.04, the child’s best interests may not be with either parent, and as unlikely as it is, may reside with another family member. During the hearing, both parents present their case as to why they would be in the child’s best interest. Upon conclusion of the trial, the judge usually chooses between one parent having sole custody, both sharing custody, or neither parents receiving custody and a relative being chosen. It is important to note that Ohio in fact calls the second option shared custody and no longer “joint custody”. Also known as “shared parenting”, this option has some major differences from joint custody. With this, even if one parent objects to shared parenting, the judge can issue the order anyway, forcing a joint custody type arrangement. With states operating under the joint custody law, one parent can object which would cause the judge inability to issue joint custody. From there, the judge is most likely to issue sole custody to a parent. Another big difference is that under shared parenting, both parents are legal custodians and residential parents of the child, instead of one parent being the custodian and the other parent having visitation rights.

Whether under a shared parenting or sole custody with visitation court order, both scenarios require provisions for time allocation. This usually involves splitting the week accordingly and discussing provisions regarding holidays, vacation, etc. In Ohio, all state recognized holidays and time-off work or school are mandatory during time allocation discussions between parents. Ohio family law explains that the child and parent’s birthdays are optional as well outlining visitation for extended family.

In the state of Ohio, parents may revisit custodial issues up until the child is 18 years of age. The parent requesting revision must do so with the same court that initially issued the order and provide reasons as to why it should be revised. During the revision request process, the initial order remains in effect. Post-decree modification is outlined in Ohio code 3109.04(E), stating that the parent filing a revision motion must demonstrate certain factors. If unknown or new factors are brought the courts attention, the revision will still take place under the “best interest of the child” provision. However, judges usually keep the previously issued order, making it harder for another parent to gain custody if said parent was not granted residential parent status initially.