Ohio Parental Rights and Responsibilities Trials

If you and the other parent are unable to settle, your case will go to trial.

A trial (also called an evidentiary hearing) gives you the opportunity to present your argument and evidence to the judicial officer so he or she can issue final orders about parenting time and parental rights and responsibilities.

Note that scheduling and procedures may vary by case, county and judicial officer.

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Preparing for trial

A trial is your last chance to present your case before you receive final orders, so you must be prepared. If you have an attorney, he or she will help you get ready.

Well in advance, gather evidence to support your argument. Make sure it's permitted under the Ohio Rules of Evidence.

Among other items, evidence may consist of:

You should also present a proposed parenting plan and schedule to the court to illustrate your desired arrangement.

It's highly recommended that you or your attorney meet with your witnesses before trial to prepare. This helps them remain honest and calm when questioned and give testimony favorable to your side.

You should avoid any behaviors that the other parent could use as evidence against you. For example, do not discuss your case on social media.

Scheduling and timing

Typically, a trial begins around six months to a year after the first hearing.

The court may reserve a certain number of hours or days for your trial based on how long it's likely to last. Cases in juvenile court usually need just one day, while cases in domestic relations court may require more because of the additional issues involved in divorce.

Trial dates are not necessarily consecutive. Cases in larger counties may wait a few days between sessions, while cases in smaller counties can have gaps of more than a week.

Don't be surprised if your trial dates move due to the court's schedule or requests for more time from either party.

People at a trial

A judge with a busy calendar may refer your case to a magistrate. Magistrates have nearly identical functions as judges, but their decisions need judge approval to become final orders.

Parents and their lawyers sit before the judicial officer, whether it's a judge or magistrate. Family, friends and the viewing public sit in the gallery. (Trials are open to the public, except in rare cases.)

Other people who attend include the court reporter and, if applicable, the guardian ad litem and interpreter. Custody trials do not have juries.

You should not bring your children to trial. If you need child care, ask your courthouse if it provides this service, or search Ohio's database of child care providers.


If you filed the case, you present your case first.

You (or your attorney) may begin with an opening statement, but it's usually unnecessary because judicial officers tend to be familiar with their family law cases. Opening statements shouldn't argue points, but briefly lay out testimony, exhibits and other evidence to come.

Next, you get to call witnesses. Witnesses, parents included, are sworn in as they take the stand.

If you have an attorney, they'll question you and your witnesses in a process called direct examination. They'll also present evidence, called exhibits, to support claims.

If you don't have an attorney, you'll have to perform the direct examination of your witnesses. You can also take the stand to testify on your own behalf. When you do this, tell the judicial officer what you are seeking and why, then present evidence to support your claims.

After each witness testifies, the other parent or lawyer has the opportunity to question (or "cross examine") them. The purpose is to gain information that helps the defendant's case and lessens the credibility of your witnesses.

The non-examining parent can object if they believe a question is inappropriate and explain why. The judicial officer then replies either with "sustained," meaning he or she agrees the question is inappropriate, or "overruled," meaning he or she will allow the question.

Some judicial officers allow re-cross examination so you or your attorney can question your witnesses again to correct any misunderstandings resulting from cross examination.

After your side rests, the defendant has the opportunity to present their case, repeating the same process.

If your case has an attorney for the child, he or she may also question witnesses and present evidence on the children's behalves.

After all sides rest, each makes a closing statement to summarize their main points. It may take hours, days or weeks to get to this stage.

In some cases, the judicial officer hears from the children in an in camera hearing before reaching a final decision. This hearing typically takes place on a nontrial day, and neither parents nor their lawyers can attend.

The judicial officer may take weeks to make a decision. If a magistrate hears your case, there's an additional 10-day waiting period while the judge originally assigned to the case reviews the verdict. The judge may confirm it, or else deny it and schedule the case for further review.

Once the judge signs final orders, these replace any temporary orders in the case. In the interim, parents must follow their active temporary orders.

Your options for changing a final order include applying for a modification or following Ohio's Rules of Appellate Procedure to file an appeal.


  • Arrive early.
  • Dress neatly and conservatively.
  • Do not bring your children, unless your court has a child care facility.
  • Know your children's interests, teachers and other information to show your involvement in their lives.
  • Be respectful to everyone in the court, including court employees.
  • Address the judicial officer as "your honor" and lawyers as "Attorney [Last Name]", "sir" or "ma'am."
  • Tell the truth and encourage your witnesses to do the same. Perjury, or lying under oath, is a criminal offense.
  • Only speak when you're asked to.
  • Do not provide more information than necessary.
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand a question, and admit when you don't know an answer.
  • Keep a level head. Avoid getting overly emotional during testimony or the verdict announcement.

Staying organized

Going to trial over parental rights and responsibilities requires serious organization.

You'll need to present evidence, which could range from messages with the other parent to a calendar showing when you care for your children. You should also present a proposed parenting plan and schedule to the court.

The Custody X Change app lets you create and manage all of these elements in one place.

With parent-to-parent messaging, personalized custody calendars, a parenting plan template and more, Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared not only for trial but for every step of your case.

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

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