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Legal Information: Ohio

Custody

Updated: 
January 12, 2021

How will a judge make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities (custody)?

A judge will make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities based on what s/he thinks is in your child’s best interests. 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 interests 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 parents, 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;”
  9. 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;
  10. whether either parent, or any member of the parent’s household, has been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, domestic violence, a sexually-oriented offense against someone who is a member of the family or household involved in the custody case, or any crime that resulted in physical harm against someone who is a member of the family or household involved in the custody case;
  11. whether either parent has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time under a court order; and
  12. whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside of the state.1

Note: The judge must not give preference to a parent because of that parent’s financial status when deciding parental rights and responsibilities.2

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

What 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 following:

  1. all of the factors mentioned in How will a judge make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities (custody)?
  2. the ability of each parent to cooperate and make decisions jointly, with respect to the children;
  3. the ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
  4. any history of, or potential to commit, child abuse, spouse abuse, other domestic violence, or parental kidnapping by either parent;
  5. how far apart both parents live from each other in order to see if shared parenting would be practical; and
  6. the recommendation of the guardian ad litem of the child, if the child has one.1

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 Selected Ohio Statutes page.

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.04(F)(2)

What are the steps for filing for custody? Will I have to go to mediation?

The steps you should take to file for custody depend on the particulars of your situation. To find out what the process will be like for you, please consult a lawyer in your area. Go to our Ohio Finding a Lawyer page for more information.

Generally, if the parents are married, parental rights and responsibilities will be determined within the divorce, legal separation, or annulment proceeding. If the parents are not married, then a proceeding can be filed for the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for the care of a child.1

If the parents do not agree on rights and responsibilities of their child or on a parenting time schedule, the judge may order the parents to go to mediation. However, before ordering mediation, the judge must consider if mediation is in the best interests of the parties when one of the parents was convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, domestic violence within that household.2

If the judge does order mediation, the judge will consider the mediation report but is not bound by it. The judge will consider the best interests of the child when making a decision.3 For more information on best interests factors, you can see How will a judge make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities (custody)?

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.04(A)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.052(A)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.052(B)

Where 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.)