Skip to Main Content

What Factors Influence a Court’s Decision to Grant Sole Custody in Ohio?

Who Decides Child Custody in Ohio?

In the State of Ohio, a court will settle all custodial decisions in what is called a child custody proceeding. At this proceeding, legal custody, physical custody, parenting time, or visitation with a child will be determined. Additionally, this proceeding may include a proceeding for divorce, separation, neglect, abuse, dependency, guardianship, parentage, termination of parental rights, or protection from domestic violence.

What Types of Child Custody Does Ohio Recognize?

Ohio recognizes several types of child custody and distinctions. Each type will be discussed in detail below.

Physical Custody

Physical custody may be granted as joint or sole custody and refers to the place where the child resides. When one parent is assigned physical custody, and the other parent is granted visitation, then the court considers the custodial parent to have sole physical custody. In cases of joint physical custody, the child is considered to reside with both parents.

Sole Physical Custody

Sole physical custody is referred to as when one parent holds the day-to-day care and responsibilities for the child. This parent is known as the custodial parent and maintains the primary residence of the child. The co-parent may be given court-observed visitation rights. In Ohio, unmarried mothers are automatically granted sole physical and legal custody of their child, though certain exceptions exist.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody is when both parents effectively co-parent as primary caretakers of the child. In this instance, the child is considered a resident of both homes. A court will determine the details of this arrangement, such as the amount of time spent with each parent, based on what is believed to be in the best interest of the child. For joint custody to be granted, one parent must submit an agreed-upon parenting plan to the court for approval. In the absence of a parenting plan, the court will assign one parent as the custodial parent based on the child’s best interest.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the parent responsible for making decisions on the child’s behalf. Typically, when joint physical custody is awarded, joint legal custody is also awarded. This means that both parents are responsible for these decisions. Legal custody involves a parent making decisions for the child, such as:

  • Education
  • Religious education
  • Important healthcare decisions
  • Decide on doctors, dentists, or other professionals
  • Summer vacation or sports participation
  • Primary residence
  • Travel 

What Factors Contribute to Child Custody Decisions?

Judges will consider a variety of factors when deciding which parent will get custody of a child. Ultimately, every decision relating to this matter is weighed with the child’s best interest in mind. Some of the contributing factors include:

  • The parent’s wishes for the care of their child
  • The child’s preference, pending age and maturity of the child
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • If there are other siblings to consider, a judge is likely to try to keep the children together
  • Parental cooperation and willingness to comply with the court’s decisions
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and other members of each household
  • The involvement of each parent in the child’s life
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child
  • Any criminal record or offense of either parent
  • Potential adjustments to a new home, school, or community
  • Many other factors

When is Sole Custody Granted to a Parent?

While most courts believe that having both parents involved in the life and upbringing of a child is in the child’s best interest, there are instances where this is not the case. Examples of that include:

  • There is a history of domestic violence between the two parties
  • The parents live far apart, such as living in separate states
  • Allegations of child abuse
  • One parent is incarcerated
  • An established history of poor communication regarding parenting decisions
  • There is proof one parent was largely uninvolved in the child’s upbringing

What Can Benefit My Sole Custody Case?

It is the job of the judge who presides over a child custody proceeding to scrutinize both parties petitioning for custody. Ideally, all parties involved are a positive and constant influence in the child’s life. However, some distinct criteria may quickly disqualify a parent from consideration as a sole custodial guardian:

  • Substance use or abuse
  • Domestic violence or child abuse
  • Court order violation or criminal history
  • A health condition that would limit a parent’s ability to care for the child adequately

One way to appeal to a family court judge is to remain cooperative and willing when it comes to requests and other stipulations. Here are a few examples of that:

  • Ensure all necessary paperwork is completed in a timely manner
  • Attend all child custody hearings
  • Speak calmly and respectfully
  • Respect the decisions of the court
  • Be patient

When Can a Child Custody Order Be Changed?

Once a court enacts a custody order, it may be difficult to change except under special circumstances. A parent must show that:

  • There has been a significant change in circumstances since the custody order was issued, which has a direct and harmful impact on the child.
  • Because of the change in circumstance, a change of custody is now in the child’s best interest.
  • The change in custody will cause more good than harm to come to the child.

Examples of change in circumstances that warrant a custody change are:

  • Abuse or neglect of the child
  • Substance abuse
  • Jail or other criminal conviction
  • Loss of job or income

Do I Need an Attorney?

When the health and happiness of your child are at stake, you need legal support you can count on. Call Lawrence Law Firm today at 614-228-3664 or fill out a contact form for a consultation.

Lawrence Law Office

Contact Us



496 S 3rd St Columbus, OH 43215

get directions

call us

P: (614) 228-3664
F: (614) 228-3798