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Know the Laws: Ohio

UPDATED September 15, 2016

State Custody Information

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This page includes information about custody that is specific to this state. There is also a page for general information that you may find helpful.

back to topBefore there is a court order, who has custody when the parents are unmarried?

The law says that when an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, she is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a court of issues an order to change that.  However, if either parent files for custody, the judge must treat the mother and father equally when deciding who gets custody.*

* Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.042(A)

 

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back to topHow will a judge make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities (custody)?

A judge will make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities (custody) based on what s/he thinks is in your child’s best interest. The judge will look at any factor that s/he thinks is important to make this decision.

According to Ohio law, when determining what is in the best interest of the child, the judge will look at the following factors:

  1. the wishes of the child’s parents regarding the child’s care;
  2. the child’s preference for who s/he wants to live with if the judge interviewed the child;
  3. the relationship the child has with his/her parent(s), siblings and any other person that might significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  4. the child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
  5. the mental and physical health of everyone involved;
  6. which parent is more likely to honor and assist with court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights;
  7. whether either parent has failed to make child support payments that s/he was ordered to make;
  8. whether either parent or any member of the parent’s household has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an “abused child” or a “neglected child;” whether any court determined that either parent has abused or neglected a child (not just a criminal court); or whether there is any reason to believe that either parent abused or neglected a child;
  9. whether either parent or any member of the parent’s household has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to domestic violence, a sexual offense, or any crime that resulted in physical harm against someone who is a member of the family or household involved in the custody case;
  10. whether either parent has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time under a court order; and
  11. whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside of the state.*

Note: The judge must not give preference to a parent because of that parent’s financial status when deciding parental rights and responsibilities.**

* Ohio Rev. Code §  3109.04(F)(1)
** Ohio Rev. Code §  3109.04(F)(3)

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back to topWhat factors will a judge consider when deciding whether to grant “shared parenting” (joint custody)?

When deciding if shared parenting is in the best interest of the child, the judge will consider all of the factors mentioned in the question above plus the following factors:

  1. the ability of each parent to cooperate and make decisions jointly, with respect to the children;
  2. the ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
  3. any history of or potential for child abuse, spouse abuse, other domestic violence or parental kidnapping by either parent;
  4. how far apart both parents live from each other (to see if shared parenting would be practical); and
  5. the recommendation of the guardian ad litem of the child, if the child has one.*

The court may also consider other relevant factors when deciding if shared parenting is appropriate.  To read more about these factors, you can see the law on our Statutes page here.

* Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.04(F)(2)

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back to topCan a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?

Possibly, yes.  The judge must take into consideration whether the parent has a history of (or the potential to commit) domestic violence, child abuse and parental kidnapping when making a parental rights and responsibility (custody) decision.  The judge will also take into consideration if one of the parents previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to domestic violence, a sexual offense, or any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or a neglected child or any crime that resulted in physical harm against someone who is a member of the family or household involved in the custody case.*

However, there are many other factors that s/he will consider as well. See How will a judge make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities (custody)?  Therefore, the fact that a parent committed domestic violence does not necessarily mean that s/he will be denied custody.

It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in any custody case, especially one involving domestic violence issues. For information on how to find a lawyer see our OH Finding a Lawyer page.

* Ohio Rev. Code §  3109.04(F)(1) & (F)(2)(c)

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back to topIf my child was conceived from rape, can the offender's rights be terminated?

Yes.  If the offender was criminally convicted of (or pleaded guilty to) an act of rape or sexual battery that resulted in your child being conceived, you can bring a case in court to ask the judge to issue an order declaring that the offender is "the parent of a child conceived as a result of rape or sexual battery."*   Once this is established, a judge cannot issue an order granting parental rights to the offender.  If an order granting parental rights was already issued, the judge must terminate (end) the order as soon as the court receives notice of the judge's order in the court action that you filed.**  Note: Termination of any parental rights order does not affect any child support payments that were already legally owed to you by that parent.***  Furthermore, any relatives of the offender can only be granted any custody/visitation rights to which you consent.****

* Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.501
** Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.504 
*** See Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.507(B)
**** Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.506

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back to topCan grandparents or other relatives get visitation rights in court?

Yes, it is possible for a grandparent or other relative to file for visitation rights at the following times in the child's life:

  1. If the child is born to an unmarried mother, a grandparent or other relative (of either the mother or father) can file if s/he meets the requirements explained in section 3109.12 of the law;
  2. If one of the child's parents dies, a grandparent or other relative (of the deceased parent) can file if s/he meets the requirements explained in section 3109.11 of the law;  or
  3. If there is a divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment, or child support proceeding that involves a child, a grandparent or other relative (of either the mother or father), or any other person can file if s/he meets the requirements explained in section 3109.051 of the law.

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back to topWhere can I find more information about custody in Ohio?

The Ohio State Bar Association has information on how a child's wishes are considered in a custody case as well as information about parenting plans in divorce and custody cases and information on sharing parental responsibility after separation.  (Please note that WomensLaw is not affiliated with the above organization and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information on that site.)

 

 

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