Monday, May 18, 2015

How Do Ohio Courts Decide What Happens to Minor Children Following Divorce or Dissolution?

            In a divorce or dissolution action, or in the case of unmarried parents, parental rights and responsibilities for minor children must be allocated. Custody can be allocated in two ways: sole custody can be given to either parent, or shared parenting can be given to both parents. Decisions for minor children are then made based on how parental rights and responsibilities are allocated.

Q:       How does the court decide custody issues?
A:        Custody determinations are governed by Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code, Section 3109.04). The court must consider various factors as the law requires. These factors include (but are not limited to) the wishes of each parent, the wishes of the children, the ability of the parents to communicate, the distance between the parents’ residences, the children's adjustment to the community and school with either parent, and the children's interactions with either parent and other family members.

Q:       What is sole custody?
A:        The parent who receives “sole custody” becomes the child’s legal custodian and will make decisions about non-urgent medical care, schooling, religious training, discipline and extra-curricular activity involvement. The sole custodian must keep the non-custodial parent advised about all matters involving the children, but will be able to make these decisions even if the non-custodial parent disagrees. The non-custodial parent will have parenting time with the children, including holidays and vacation time. Also, the non-custodial parent will have equal access to medical and school records. 

Q:       What is shared parenting?
A:        The court cannot grant shared parenting unless one or both parent(s) files a motion with a proposed shared parenting plan. If the court orders shared parenting, both parents are designated legal custodians of the minor children and must make all decisions together. These decisions will be outlined in a shared parenting plan that is filed with the court. The children may attend school in either parent’s school district. The parents must communicate to further the best interests of their children.
            Neither parent can make unilateral decisions for the children in a shared parenting arrangement. If the parents are unable to agree on decisions about the children, they will be required to attend mediation sessions before they can file motions with the court. Generally speaking, Ohio courts favor shared parenting because it is thought that children benefit when both parents are involved in childrearing decisions. In some cases, however, shared parenting is not appropriate. For example, when there is a history of domestic or substance abuse, shared parenting may not be in the best interests of the children. 

Q:       Do I have shared parenting if I have my children 50 percent of the time?
A:        It is often thought that having a 50/50 parenting schedule means that the parents have “shared parenting.” While parents who share equal time with their children often have shared parenting, it is not required. Even when the court allocates sole custody to one parent, both parents may share parenting time equally.

Q:       What is a parenting schedule?
A:        In addition to issuing a custody allocation, the court will also order a parenting schedule, which determines how much parenting time each parent has with the children. A parenting schedule is different from custody. For example, even if parents do not have equal parenting time, they can have shared parenting for decision-making purposes. 

Q:       If I have shared parenting, do I have to pay child support?
A:        A common misconception is that if the parents have shared parenting of their minor children, then neither parent will be required to pay child support. Various factors are taken into account when determining child support, which is done on a case-by-case basis. 

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by attorneys Trista Portales Goldberg and Maggie M. Nestheide of Beth Silverman & Associates. The column offers general information about the law.  Seek an attorney’s advice before applying this information to a legal problem.

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