Ohio Child Custody Law Online

What is a Custody Investigator?

This is an individual appointed by the court to investigate the health (mental and physical),  home lives, education, work,  criminal history and relationships of children, parents and others in the household of a family embroiled in a custody dispute. The investigator writes a report which is read by the judge and considered in the court's determination of parenting rights.

What factors does the divorce court consider when determining whether to grant Visitation/ Parenting Time?


(1)  The prior interaction and interrelationships of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other persons related by consanguinity (blood relation) or affinity (marital relation), and with the person who requested companionship or visitation if that person is not a parent, sibling, or relative of the child;

(2)  The geographical location of the residence of each parent and the distance between those residences, and if the person is not a parent, the geographical location of that person’s residence and the distance between that person’s residence and the child’s residence;

(3)  The child’s and parents’ available time, including, but not limited to, each parent’s employment schedule, the child’s school schedule, and the child’s and the parents’ holiday and vacation schedule;

(4)  The age of the child;

(5)  The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;

(6)  If the court has interviewed the child in chambers,. . . the wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court;

(7)  The health and safety of the child;

(8)  The amount of time that will be available for the child to spend with siblings;

(9)  The mental and physical health of all parties;

(10)  Each parent’s willingness to reschedule missed parenting time and to facilitate the other parent’s parenting time rights, and with respect to a person who requested companionship or visitation, the willingness of that person to reschedule missed visitation;

(11)  Any issues (or potential issues) of child abuse, dependency or neglect;

(12)  Any issues of domestic violence;


(13)  Whether the residential parent or one of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court;

(14)  Whether either parent has established a residence or is planning to establish a residence outside this state;

(15)  In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, the wishes and concerns of the child’s parents, as expressed by them to the court;

(16)  Any other factor in the best interest of the child.

ORC Ann. 3109.051


What if the parents are not married?


Generally, both married parents have custody of their child.  When dealing with the traditional nuclear family, that means both the mother and the father.  One of the real tricky situations occurs when the parents are unmarried. 


In that situation, who has custody?

In Ohio, due to a law enacted in 1998, it is the mother who has residential and legal custody of the child.  According to Ohio Revised Code 3109.042(A), an unmarried female who gives birth to a child is the “sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child,” until a court deems otherwise.

Where does that leave the father?  As far as the law is concerned, without custody.

For the Father to gain custodial or visitation rights, paternity must be legally established and the court must determine that it is in the best interest of the minor child that custody be shared or awarded to Father.


What is a Guardian

Ad Litem?

This is an individual appointed by the court, typically an attorney, who investigates the children and their parents during custody cases involving high conflict, domestic violence, child abuse, dependency and neglect. The Guardian or GAL makes a recommendation to the court as to parenting rights.

What does the Court mean by “Best Interest of the Child?”

The Ohio Domestic Relations Court (which deals with divorced parents) and the Ohio Juvenile Court (which deals with unmarried parents or cases of child abuse, dependency and neglect) both require a determination of what is in the children’s best interest before awarding custody to one or both of the parents. The domestic relations court lists a specific list of facts that it considers when making this determination. It asks the following:


  • What do the parents want?
  • What do the children want?
  • How are the children’s interactions and interrelationship with their parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
  • How are the children adjusted to their home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation;
  • The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights;
  • Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments;
  • Whether there is evidence of child abuse, dependency, neglect, sexually oriented offenses or domestic violence in either home;
  • Whether the residential parent or one of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court;
  • Whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside this state.


The juvenile court does not rely on as rigid a list of factors, but it considers the same matters, as well as the children’s custodial history (where have they been living) in cases involving abuse, dependency and neglect.  

How do you terminate a Shared Parenting Plan?


According to Ohio Revised Code §3109.04(E)(2)(c), a shared parenting plan may be terminated by motion of one parent and upon the basis that it is no longer in the best interest of the child.


To change an order where only one parent is granted custody, the moving party must first demonstrate that there has been a change of circumstances warranting the new order. If the parties have joint custody, as in shared parenting, the moving party need only argue that the current arrangement no longer meets the children's best interests The court typically orders a custody investigation and sets the matter for trial before the judge.


One should also check their shared parenting plan to determine whether the parties' participation in mediation is necessary.

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