Settling Parental Rights & Responsibilities in Ohio: 5 Steps

Settling is recommended by judges, lawyers and other family law professionals as the best way to resolve a custody dispute.

Settling means parents reach an agreement and file a parenting plan with the court to make it a final order. The process keeps decision-making in the parents' hands and can often lead to less animosity, faster resolution and significant cost savings.

Ohio courts give parents the opportunity to discuss settlement during hearings in an effort to avoid trial. Parents can also settle through alternative dispute resolution methods.

Experts recommend that both settling parents hire an attorney, at least to review paperwork. Agreements — especially Separation Agreements — can be lengthy and dense, and a professional will ensure your draft covers all the bases.

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When parents have negotiated a plan successfully, they'll follow the steps below. If you have an attorney, he or she will guide you through this process.

Check with your court before filing, as some requirements vary slightly by county.

Before you begin: Determine your court

Juvenile court handles cases for unmarried parents, while domestic relations court handles cases involving divorce, dissolution or separation. In both courts, you can file settlement paperwork while or after you open your case.

Step 1: Draft your parenting plan

Ohio requires a parenting plan with a parenting time schedule to settle your case.

Ohio's shared parenting plan template is for parents who want to share legal custody, as well as share residential custody. If you want to instead designate one parent the sole legal and sole residential custodian, complete Ohio's parenting plan template.

You can substitute a personalized format, such as a Custody X Change parenting plan, for either document to address your family's needs more specifically.

Step 2: Complete your paperwork

Both parents must sign all their paperwork, including the parenting plan and the documents listed below, in front of a notary public.

Every case that settles requires a service waiver to show that both parties are aware of the proceedings and do not need to be served. You'll also need a child support worksheet (or, in rare cases, a child support worksheet for split custody) and an insurance affidavit.

If your case is in juvenile court...

To file a shared parenting plan while opening your case, check the box on page 2 of your complaint labeled "Adopt the proposed Shared Parenting Plan for the child(ren), which is attached."

If your agreement is not for shared parenting or you've already opened your case, you or your attorney can draft a motion asking the court to approve your parenting plan.

If you have a dissolution or divorce case in domestic relations court…

When you settle a divorce, it's called a dissolution.

The paperwork is the same whether you file for dissolution from the start or convert your divorce to a dissolution. Complete a Petition for Dissolution and a Separation Agreement.

Your agreement should specify terms including:

  • Division of property
  • Who will be responsible for paying which bills
  • Child support (Note: The judicial officer can overrule this amount in favor of the state's guideline support obligation.)
  • How additional costs for the children will be covered

If you have a separation case in domestic relations court...

If you're just opening your case, you must complete your county's legal separation packet. To settle a separation case that's already active, parents instead complete a Separation Agreement (details above).

Typically, one parent moves out of the family home as part of the agreement. Unless specified otherwise, the agreement is considered invalid if parents begin living together again.

You're now separated via a private contract. If you want your separation to be legally enforceable, continue to the next step.

Step 3: Turn in your paperwork

Attach all of your paperwork and turn it in to the clerk of court. If you're opening a case, you may have to pay a fee.

In most juvenile courts, this is your last step, and you'll receive notice when you can pick up the court-approved forms.

However, if you're summoned to court for a hearing, continue through the remaining steps, just like cases in domestic relations court do.

Step 4: Get the court's approval

If your case is in juvenile court...

You may have to appear before a judicial officer, who will review your paperwork to ensure it's complete. Officers will usually approve any agreement that isn't harmful to the children, but they may be more scrupulous if your family has a history of crime, violence or substance abuse.

If you have a dissolution or divorce case in domestic relations court…

Thirty to 90 days after filing for dissolution, you'll have a hearing where the judicial officer will review your paperwork. If it's all completed satisfactorily, the officer will sign a Judgment of Dissolution.

If you have a separation case in domestic relations court…

Within 30 days of filing for settlement, you'll have a separation hearing, where a judicial officer will review your agreement. If all paperwork is completed correctly, the officer will sign a Judgment of Separation to legally separate you from your spouse.

Step 5: File your paperwork

Filing makes your settlement a final court order. After a judicial officer approves your agreement, turn your paperwork in to the clerk of court. You may receive a partial refund of earlier filing fees.

You'll receive notice when you can pick up copies of the forms for your records.

After you've settled

If you want to modify your order, you can come to an agreement with the other parent and repeat the above process to have the change approved by the court.

If you and the other parent don't agree on the modification, an alternative dispute resolution method may help you see eye to eye. Or you can ask the court to make a decision by filing a Motion for Change of Parenting Time or Motion for Change of Parental Rights and Responsibilities.

To convert your separation to a divorce, you must live apart from the other parent for at least a year after signing the separation agreement and follow the agreement's terms. Then, complete your county's Motion for Conversion to get a divorce with the same terms as your separation.

Following your settlement's terms

The custody journey continues after you receive final orders. Now your responsibilities include:

To do all of this and more, use Custody X Change.

The online app's customizable calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, expense tracker and parenting plan template will make life after settlement as straightforward as they made settlement itself.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

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