Child custody is often one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce proceeding. When both parents want custody of the children and cannot reach a compromise, the court will issue a child custody order to settle the matter.
Like most states, Ohio bases child custody decisions on the “best interests of the child.” There is no presumption that the mother (or the father, for that matter) will get primary custody.
Instead, the court bases its decision on the child’s overall “best interests,” as guided by the following factors:
- The individual wishes of the child’s parents
- The child’s own wishes and concerns, if the judge feels the child is mature enough to form a well-reasoned decision regarding custody
- The child’s relationship with his or her parents, siblings and other important people
- How well the child has adjusted to his or her school, home and community
- The mental and physical health of all persons involved in the custody arrangement
- Whether either parent is more likely to honor the court-approved visitation or parenting time rights awarded to the other parent
- Whether either parent has failed to meet child support obligations
- Whether there is any history of child abuse in the family
- Whether one parent has denied the parenting rights of the other parent
- Whether either parent has established, or is planning to establish, a residency outside of the state of Ohio
In some cases, the court will make a determination that shared parenting is in the best interests of the child. In doing so, it will look toward the following factors:
- The ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly
- Each parent’s ability to encourage the child to love and have contact with the other parent
- Any history of domestic abuse, child abuse or parental kidnapping
- Whether the parents have sufficient geographic proximity to facilitate shared parenting
- The recommendation of the child’s guardian ad litem, if the child has a guardian ad litem
The above factors serve as a guide, but court’s ultimate decision will be based on the unique elements of each individual case.
Child custody hearings can be a stressful process, but by understanding the guidelines, you can be better prepared to present your case.