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Legal Information: Ohio

Ohio Custody

Laws current as of July 12, 2023

What is custody?

In Ohio, when the judge issues a custody order, it will address these two parts of custody:

  • Physical custody, which is the physical care and supervision of a child. This is referred to as residential parenting in Ohio law.
  • Legal custody, which is the right to have physical care and control of the child and to make important decisions for the child, including where s/he lives.1

The custodian is the person who has legal custody of a child.2

1 Ohio Admin. Code 5101:2-1-01(B)(171)
2 Ohio Admin. Code 5101:2-1-01(B)(84)

What is joint custody (shared parenting)?

Joint custody, called shared parenting in Ohio,1 means that both parents will be responsible for caring for the child. Among other things, parents will determine:

  • where the child will live;
  • how they will provide for the child’s economic and medical needs; and
  • where the child will spend his/her holidays and other important dates.2

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.041(C)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.04(G)

What are some pros and cons of starting a custody case?

There are many reasons people choose not to file for custody. Some people decide not to get a custody order because:

  • they don’t want to get the courts involved;
  • they have an informal agreement that works well for them;
  • they think going to court will provoke the other parent; or
  • they are worried that if a custody case is started, the other parent will suddenly fight for, and get, more custody or visitation rights than they are comfortable with.

However, getting a custody order from a court can give you certain legal rights. Getting a custody order can give you:

  • the right to make decisions about your child; and/or
  • the right to have your child live with you.

Without a custody order, it is possible that you may not have these legal rights, even if you’re the parent who takes care of the child every day. However, if you file for custody, the other parent may also request these rights and it will be up to the judge to decide.

We strongly recommend talking to a lawyer who can help you think through if filing for custody would be best for you, depending on the facts of your situation. You can find legal help by clicking on the Ohio Finding a Lawyer page.

Some people think they should file for custody so they can get child support. While custody and child support are related, you do not necessarily need a custody order to get child support. A custody order will not automatically give you child support. For information on filing for child support, you can contact your local courthouse by going to our Ohio Courthouse Locations page or talk to a lawyer.

Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?

If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request, although this may depend on your situation.

However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice before you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.

In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time – and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.

In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to Ohio Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.