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Child Custody In Divorce Or Marriage Dissolution

By Jim Robenalt

Following marriage dissolution or divorce proceedings, the court may award the custody of the children to one of the parents.

The custodial parent will primarily be responsible for the children’s care, control, and maintenance. Said parent will also make all decisions concerning the kids’ education, residence, and upbringing.

Custody arrangement is usually a part of marriage dissolution or divorce proceedings. But while the outcome is the same as the custody award to a parent, the process is dissimilar in both options.

This article will discuss awarding child custody in divorce and marriage dissolution.

Marriage Dissolution with Children in Ohio

Did you know there are two types of parenting plans when you file for marriage dissolution in Ohio?

First, the court awards custody of the children to one parent. In this case, the other parent only enjoys parenting time—or what is commonly called visitation rights.

In the second type, the parents follow a shared parenting plan.

Let’s take a look at both parenting plans.

Award of Custody to One Parent

In most cases, awarding custody to one parent has one essential factor—the children’s best interest. So it’s not all about having a lot of money. The parent who can provide for the children’s basic needs and best interests will likely get custody.

On the other hand, the non-custodial parent will have liberal parenting time with the children. The parenting time usually is on the weekends.

Holidays are something that’s disputed. However, in most cases, the non-custodial parent gets longer parenting time over school breaks.

The non-custodial parent can also set out his involvement with the children’s school activities in the parenting plan. He can also have access to the kids’ school and medical records.

Ohio law also envisions a scenario where the custodial parent plans to move out of the area. This may result in limiting the parenting time for the non-custodial parent. So before moving out, there must be notification and a possible court hearing to discuss possible changes in the parenting time for the non-custodial parent.

The court may order special provisions to cover transportation costs and other necessities if the non-custodial parent lives more than 100 miles away from the children’s residence.

One parent can want to restrict the parenting time of the other. Before this can happen, there must be a good reason behind this, and it should be in the children’s best interest. Again, this may call for a possible hearing before the court decides on the matter.

Shared Parenting

The key to shared parenting is cooperation and decision-making over the children’s welfare.

Under Ohio law, the court cannot force the parents to have a shared parenting plan. Both parents must decide for themselves that a shared parenting plan is in the best interest of their children.

Ideally, the parents need to consult with each other before making decisions that affect their children. Both enjoy shared responsibility for all major decisions concerning their children. This includes their education, medical care, upbringing, and other matters concerning the children’s general welfare.

However, when the parents live far away from each other, it can be challenging to do shared parenting. Under this setup, the court may refuse to grant these parents a shared parenting plan.

Designation of Residential Parents

The mother and the father are residential parents regardless of where the kids are physically situated. However, they need to follow a parenting schedule of when the kids will be with each parent. This schedule may change as may be necessary to accommodate the schedules of the parents and children.

There will be a designated residential parent for school enrollment—another designation for the parent who will receive the public benefits for the children.

Regardless of the designation, both parents still enjoy equal rights and responsibilities over the children in all other respects.

Division of Child Support and Parenting Time

One parent can have more parenting time with the children. This is common.

What is controlling, however, is that the schedule follows what is best for the children. And this is up to the parents to figure out the ideal schedule that works for all of them.

As for child support, the amount may vary depending on parenting time, resources, and other factors.

Divorce With Children in Ohio

Under Ohio law, the presumption is that the children should have continuing contact with both parents after the divorce.

The court must decide the custody issue with the children’s best interest in mind. 

If the children reach a certain age, they may choose which parent to be with. The court may consider the children’s wishes when deciding on custody.

The parent who gets custody is the residential parent. 

If both parents agree on shared parenting, the court may designate one parent’s home as the children’s residence.

There are instances where the parents disagree on the division of parental rights and responsibilities. The court may order both parents to attempt mediation. In addition, the court may also direct the parents to attend counseling or parenting classes before issuing a decree allocating parental rights and responsibilities.

Child Support

Under Ohio law, both parents shall support their children even after divorce. The court follows state-mandated support guidelines to evaluate the proper amount of support.

If the court believes the amount of support is unjust, it may deviate from the support guidelines and determine the appropriate amount.

There are several factors that the court will consider in determining the appropriate amount of support. Here are some of them:

  • special needs of the children
  • financial resources of the family
  • earning ability of the parent liable for support
  • standard of living that the children enjoyed before the divorce
  • extraordinary expenses of both parents
  • cost of the children’s extracurricular activities

The minimum amount set under Ohio law for child support is $80. A court order setting an amount less than that (or even for zero dollars) is permissible in cases where the parent liable for support suffers from a disability or has special needs.

Who Decides Custody

In most cases, the court will give weight to arrangements made by the parents regarding the custody of their children.

The court will ascertain the fairness and reasonableness of their agreement and adopt it into its order.

Ideally, the best way to control the outcome of the child custody issue is for the parents to work together.

Best Interest of the Child

In coming up with its decision regarding child custody, the court uses the “best interest of the child” standard.

Accordingly, the court will consider the following factors in determining the paramount interest of the children.

  • age, sex, and health of the children
  • each parent’s physical and mental health, lifestyle, and other social factors
  • the emotional connection between each parent and each child
  • each parent’s ability to provide proper guidance to each child
  • each parent’s ability to deliver the necessities for the children
  • the established living pattern of the children (home, school, community, etc.)
  • current situation and quality of the children’s education
  • effect on the children in changing the status quo

If the children are mature enough to form an opinion on the matter, the court will also consider their preference.

Where all of these factors are equal for both parents, the court will focus on the parent who will likely provide a stable environment for the children.

In addition, the court will prefer the parent with a better relationship with the children. This strongly applies to the parent who happens to be the kids’ primary caregiver.

For older children, the court will consider the parent who can advance continuity in the children’s education, community life, peer relationships, and religious upbringing.

Modifying a Child Custody Arrangement

While the preference is maintaining the status quo, the court may modify existing orders. This is true where the changes in family and personal circumstances call for updating the prevailing orders.

The parent requesting a custody order modification must demonstrate substantial changes in circumstances. In addition, the said parent must show that the prevailing order no longer serves the children’s best interest.

Child Custody FAQs

Is it true that mothers will likely get custody more than fathers

That is not exactly true. 

When determining who is better suited to get custody of the children, both the father and mother stand on equal footing.

Today, the court will consider both parents’ fitness to care for their children and the latter’s best interest.

So if you are a father, you can convince the judge that you can be the custodial parent.

But as it turns out today, many divorcing couples work together to reach the best possible arrangement. Some people agree that the mother will have custody since she has more time and inclination and a better understanding of the daily needs of their children.

Is joint custody possible despite the separation of the parents

Yes, the court may order partial custody of each parent. This arrangement is called “joint custody.”

In joint custody, children spend equal time with each parent.

However, the court frowns upon joint custody when it would not work in the children’s best interest.

Is sexual orientation an issue when seeking custody rights

Not really.

The court will generally look at the bigger picture. 

Suppose the custodial parent is gay or lesbian but can provide a nurturing environment for the children. The court will likely award custody to the former.

On the other hand, if the parent has an abusive relationship with a same-sex partner, this can negatively impact the children. Accordingly, the court will not grant custody rights to the said parent.

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