Ohio Parental Rights Hearings: How to Prepare

Hearings are sessions with a judicial officer for gathering information, making temporary orders and discussing the possibility of settlement. They differ from trials in that they do not feature live witness testimony or end in a final order.

Some parents settle before ever having a hearing, while others have several hearings. Note that scheduling and procedures may vary based on your case, county and judicial officer.

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Preparing for your hearing

The impression you give at your hearings could affect your case years down the road. Be sure to prepare thoroughly with your attorney before each one. If you're representing yourself, use all the litigation resources at your disposal.

Prepare a statement explaining why your desired arrangement is best for your children. Include details that demonstrate your parental fitness, such as the routine you've set for the children, your history of attending school conferences, etc.

Hearings often focus on one issue, so tailor what you bring to the issue at hand. For example, if you're discussing a parenting arrangement, bring a proposed parenting plan and schedule.

If you need information from the other party, file a request for production of documents. To ask the court for something (e.g., settlement approval or a temporary order), file a motion and provide the judicial officer with copies before the hearing.


Your first hearing is typically 30 days after you open a case. You'll receive notice of the date in the mail.

At the end of each hearing, the judge tells you the next step in your case. You'll typically have another hearing in 30 to 60 days, unless the court appoints a guardian ad litem, which pushes your next hearing out to 60 to 90 days.

Parents with lawyers only have to attend their first hearing, but should consider attending later ones to help the attorney negotiate a settlement.

If you need more time to prepare, you can ask the court to move your hearing.


Hearings typically last 30 minutes. While some are held in a courtroom open to the public, most take place in the judge's chambers.

Arrive at least half an hour early to allow yourself time to check in and meet with your attorney. Be prepared to wait for other hearings to finish, as they often run behind schedule.

In motion hearings, the parties take turns presenting motions and discussing points of contention, once they're sworn in. The judicial officer speaks mostly with lawyers, unless the parents are representing themselves.

Separation hearings and dissolution hearings have unique formats.

Some courts divide hearings into status conferences and discovery conferences. At a status conference, the parties discuss motions and the possibility of settlement with the judicial officer. Discovery conferences are for collecting and exchanging information, such as financial or police records requested by the parties.

Based on information shared during a hearing, the judge or magistrate can do one or more of the following:


  • Observe other hearings ahead of time, especially ones with your judicial officer.
  • Dress like you're going to a job interview.
  • Do not bring your children. You can bring an adult for moral support, but they must remain silent.
  • Treat all court employees and the other party with respect.
  • Don't talk about the case in or near the courthouse. You never know who might overhear.
  • Only speak when asked to, and don't give more information than asked for.
  • Address the judge or magistrate as "Your Honor."
  • State your case clearly. Specify what you're asking for and give reasons why.
  • Don't raise your voice.

Using technology for your hearing

The evidence you'll need to prepare for a hearing depends on the topic being considered.

You may want to present:

The Custody X Change online app lets you create all of these in one place. It helps you prepare for every hearing that comes up in your case.

Take advantage of custody technology to get what's best for your children.

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