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Understanding Ohio child custody laws

Ohio courts seek the best interests of the child when determining post-divorce custody and parenting arrangements. Chapter 3109 of the Ohio Code sets forth the rules governing allocation of parental rights and responsibilities.

As FindLaw.com explains, numerous factors go into deciding what is in the best interests of the child, including the following:

  • The child’s own wishes, assuming he or she has attained the appropriate age and maturity
  • The parents’ wishes
  • The relationship of the child with each parent
  • The mental and physical health of the child and each of the parents
  • The willingness of the parents to cooperate with each other and make joint decisions

Shared parenting

Ohio allows post-divorce joint custody and parenting, but if this is what the parents desire, at least one of them must file a motion with the court, asking it to grant shared parental rights and responsibilities. The parent also must file a shared parenting plan. Assuming the court finds the arrangement and plan to be in the best interests of the child(ren), it will approve them. If, however, neither parent files a motion and plan, or if they file competing motions and plans, the court has wide discretion in determining under what arrangements the child(ren) will live in the future.

For instance, the court may interview the child(ren) in chambers regarding any wishes or concerns they may have with respect to either parent. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate for the best interests of the child(ren) if it believes such advocacy is necessary. In addition, the court may, should it deem it necessary, require the parents and children to undergo medical, psychological and/or psychiatric examinations. It also can order an investigation into either or both parents, including past conduct, character and criminal history. The court has the final say in all matters regarding children.

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