Ohio, like other U.S. states, allots child custody based on the best interest of the child. It is up to the Ohio family court judge to determine what custody arrangement will be best for the child.
Types of Custody
There are two basic types of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custodians make major decisions about the child's life, such as religious training, education and medical treatment. Residential custodians care for the child on a day-to-day basis, making decisions about diet, school work, extracurricular activities, exercise, bedtimes, curfews and discipline.
Legal and physical custody can be allotted to one parent or shared by both parents. Under Ohio law, the court can order shared custody if at least one of the parties to the custody case submits a shared custody plan to the court and if that plan is in the best interest of the child. If no shared custody plan is submitted, or if a submitted plan is not in the best interest of the child, the court must award each form of custody to one parent only. If the parents are receiving public assistance, only one parent can be named as the residential parent.
The court can choose to interview the child to learn what custody arrangement the child would prefer. If at least one of the parties to the case requests it, the judge must conduct the interview. The child will not have to testify or give an affidavit. If the judge decides that the child does not have sufficient reasoning ability to give a preference, the court will not consider it. If one of the parties requests it, the court must also appoint a guardian ad litem, or objective adult, to represent the interest of the child in the case.
In allotting custody, an Ohio court considers all the factors about the fitness of the parties to the case, including finances, emotional issues and family relationships. It can investigate the family and can order both parents and the child to undergo physical and psychological examinations. The court must consider any history of child neglect, domestic violence or sexual offenses by a parent as factors against naming him or her the residential parent.
Petitioning for Shared Custody
Even when both parents ask the court for shared custody and submit a joint shared parenting plan or two separate plans, it is the duty of the court to determine if the plan is in the best interest of the child. The court will order that any sections of the plan that are not in the child's best interest be changed. If the parents fail to revise the plan, the court will not order shared custody. Whatever award of custody the court makes, it will favor continued contact between the child and both parents whenever possible.
Revising the Custody Order
Once a custody order has been made, the court will not change it unless one of the parents shows that circumstances have significantly changed from what they were at the time of the order.