Ohio Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Ohio and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Ohio courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
The State of Ohio has specific laws regarding the custody of children that can be found in the Ohio Revised Code, Title 31, Domestic Relations-Children.
Becoming familiar with these laws is important if you want to have a successful outcome in your family law proceeding.
When you use the law as a guide when creating your parenting plan, it can be a beneficial tool. The Code explains the factors the court considers when ruling on family law cases, defines the terminology used by the courts, and outlines the criteria for shared parenting.
Creating a parenting plan that complies with the law and is written in the best interest of your child is easier when you have knowledge of the legislation and have detailed information regarding the expectations of the court.
Technically, the State of Ohio no longer uses the traditional term "custody". Instead, the court refers to custody as "the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the minor children of the marriage."
This also pertains to children born to non-married parents, however, a single mother is considered to be the sole custodian of her child until the matter is brought before the court (ORC § 3109.042).
In this article, the word "custody" may be used when referring to "the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the minor children".
There are two types parenting arrangements in Ohio:
- Shared parenting means that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child. This applies to both the legal and the physical care and custody of the child. Shared parenting does not necessarily mean the parents must split their time with the child 50/50. One parent's home may be designated as the child's primary residence, for legal purposes.
- Sole parenting means only one parent is responsible for making the legal and day to day decisions involving the child, and this parent will have primary physical care of the child. The other parent may be entitled to reasonable visitation rights.
Any time a motion is brought before the court regarding the care of children, the court has the power to determine the "custody" of the children, including designating a primary parent and ordering the visitation schedule.
The best way to avoid having the fate of your family law case decided upon by the court is to work together with the other parent to create and submit a parenting plan.
The law explains how you can go about getting a plan accepted by the court. Here are the ways that you can make your plan official:
- Both parents can jointly submit a shared parenting plan. The court will approve it if it finds that the plan is in the best interest of the child. If the plan isn't found to be in the best interest of the child, the court can require the parents to make appropriate changes. If the changes are still not found to be in the best interest of the child, the court can reject portions of the plan.
- Each parent can file a separate plan to the court. The court can approve either of the filed plans if either one is found to be in the best interest of the child. If neither plan is approved, the court can require the parents to make changes to the plan. The court will then choose which plan to accept.
- If only one parent files a plan, the court can order the other parent to submit a plan. The court will then review each plan and determine if either one is in the best interest of the child. If one is in the best interest of the child, the court will approve it. Or, the court will ask parents to revise their plans or make changes to them before approval.
A parenting plan outlines all of the rules and regulations of raising a child together, while apart and your Ohio parenting plan should contain, at a minimum:
- A statement designating what type of parenting arrangement the parents shall have
- A declaration of the child's primary residence
- A list of parental rights and responsibilities, designating either or both parents as the decision maker on topics of importance, such as the child's education and medical care
- A parenting time schedule that specifies when the child will spend time with each parent. A holiday and a vacation schedule must be included, in addition to the regular, residential schedule
- Provisions for modifying the plan in the future as the needs of the child evolve
- A method for dispute resolution
Once your Ohio parenting plan is completed, it may be submitted to the court for review. If the court finds the parenting plan is not in the best interest of the child, the court has the authority to modify the plan or create a parenting plan of its own.
The child's best interest is the main consideration of the court in family law cases.
The court considers the following factors when determining the best interests of the child (ORC § 3109.04(F)(1)):
- The wishes of the parents as to the care of the child
- The wishes of the child, if the child has been interviewed in chambers and expressed a desire to the court
- The child's establishes relationships and interactions with the parents, any siblings, and other people who may have a significant impact on the child's best interest
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
- The physical and mental health of all parties involved
- Which parent is more likely to comply with the court ordered parenting arrangements
- Whether or not either parent has failed to pay court ordered child support
- Whether or not either parent has been convicted of any offense that indicates the parent is a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, or any sexual offense on a child or family member, or if there is reasonable evidence that any of those acts were committed
- Whether or not either parent has blatantly refused and denied the other parent's court ordered right to parenting time
- Whether or not either parent has moved, or intends to move, out of the State of Ohio
In addition to the factors listed above, the court will also consider the following factors prior to making a ruling for shared parentage (ORC § 3109.04(F)(2)):
- The capability of both of the parents to cooperate with each other, when it pertains to decisions regarding the child
- The ability of each parent to encourage and foster a loving, affectionate, close relationship between the child and other parent
- Any history of abuse, domestic violence, or parental kidnapping
- How close the parents live to each other, as the proximity relates to the feasibility of shared parenting
- If the child has a guardian ad litem, any recommendations from him or her
Knowing the factors the court considers and what a parenting plan contains should put you on the right path for creating a parenting plan the State of Ohio will approve of. You should keep these factors in mind and think about your child's specific needs as you make your plan.
When you put forth the effort to work with the other parent to create a parenting plan that serves the best interest of your child, you are more likely to have a favorable outcome in your case, which will benefit your child.
The top twenty cities in Ohio (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Canton, Parma, Youngstown, Lorain, Hamilton, Springfield, Elyria, Kettering, Mentor, Middleton, Cuyahoga Falls, Lakewood, Mansfield, Euclid.