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Child custody laws in Ohio

Have questions about child custody laws in Ohio? We cover everything you need to know about child custody and shared parenting in Ohio.

evident Editorial Team
November 20, 2023
Ohio shared parenting mother with daughter on pier

Child custody can be one of the most emotionally-charged and contentious areas of family law, and going through a child custody battle is a stressful experience. But understanding the process and how it works can alleviate much of the stress and uncertainty involved.

This article will cover the basics of child custody laws in Ohio and explain how Ohio courts determine who gets custody.

Key Takeaways

Types of child custody in Ohio

The first thing to know about child custody laws in Ohio is that Ohio courts no longer use the word “custody” in their Family courts. Instead, Ohio courts use the terms “Legal Custodian” and “Residential Parent” when allocating parental rights. 

What do legal custodian and residential parent mean?

In Ohio, a legal custodian is a parent who has the right to make decisions regarding a child’s medical care, schooling, religious upbringing, and other important matters. 

A residential parent, meanwhile, is a parent who has their child live at their place of residence where they are responsible for the child’s well-being. 

Ohio’s Shared Parenting System 

As noted above, Ohio courts no longer use the term “custody” when referring to parental rights. Generally, the courts recognize two arrangements. 

  • Shared Parenting Arrangement: this is what is commonly referred to as joint custody in other states. Both parents are considered legal custodians and residential parents of the child, even if the child primarily resides with one parent.
  • Non-Shared Parenting Arrangement: this is when one parent is given what is commonly referred to in other states as sole custody. In this arrangement, one parent is deemed the child's legal custodian and residential parent. The other parent is considered the non-custodial parent and nonresidential parent.

Although a Shared Parenting Arrangement gives both parents equal rights and obligations with regard to their child, it does not guarantee that the child’s time will be spent 50-50 with each parent. Each Shared Parenting Plan is unique to the family, with some allocating more time or access to one parent.

How do courts in Ohio determine a parenting plan?

Generally, one or both parents will make a request to the court for a Shared Parenting Plan. After this request, each parent will submit a Shared Parenting Plan to be approved by the court. The court will review the plans and determine what arrangement would be in the best interest of the child. 

The parents may jointly submit a single plan for shared parenting to show their ability to cooperate and make decisions together concerning their children.

What does “best interest of the child” mean? 

When evaluating the proposed parenting plans, Ohio child custody laws require the court to consider the following factors to determine which arrangement is best for the child, including: 

  • the parents' preferences regarding the child's care
  • the child's interaction and interrelationship with their parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest
  • the child's adjustment to their home, school, and community
  • the mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation
  • whether one parent is more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights;
  • whether either parent now lives, or is planning to live, outside the state
  • any history of, or potential for: child abuse, spouse abuse, other domestic violence, or parental misconduct by either parent. 

The courts will work with the parents on the shared parenting plan. The judge may require changes that they think would be in the best interest of the child. 

The court can deny a motion for a Shared Parenting Plan if they find that it is in the best interest of the child for one parent to be the sole legal custodian of the child. (And if you're in a custody battle, check out our article about what can be held against you in a custody case).

Modifying a shared parenting plan in Ohio

Can you modify a shared parenting plan in Ohio? Yes, the court can modify a Shared Parenting Plan at any time if it finds that the modification is in the best interests of the child. 

How the request for modification is made can affect how likely it is to be granted.

Joint modification requests

Both parents may propose a joint modification to the parenting plan at any time. If the court finds that the modification is in the best interest of the child, the modification will be permitted. 

Under Ohio child custody laws, judges will consider the parents’ preferences when evaluating the child’s best interests. As a result, a joint modification from both parents is relatively easy to implement. 

Modification requests from one parent

One parent may file a request for a modification with the court, but the court will only grant a modification if it is in the best interest of the child and there has been a material change in circumstances.

Modification requests made by one parent will be more difficult to implement as the court must evaluate the modification as well as the preferences of the parent who did not request a modification. 

Visitation rights in Ohio

What are child visitation rights in Ohio, and how do they work? A parent who is not the custodial parent of a child will be almost guaranteed to have visitation rights, referred to as "parenting time" in Ohio.

At the same time that the court determines custody custody, the court will issue an order ensuring the non-custodial parent will have parenting time with the child. 

As with almost all determinations involving children, courts will only interfere with a parent’s visitation rights in Ohio if it is in the child’s best interest. This generally only happens in extreme circumstances where the parent may pose a significant risk to the child’s well-being. 

Grandparents’ and other relatives’ visitation rights in Ohio 

Do grandparents or other relatives have visitation rights in Ohio? Yes, grandparents and other relatives may apply for visitation rights by filing a motion with the courts.

Ohio courts will grant visitation rights if: 

  • The court determines that the grandparent, relative, or other person has an interest in the welfare of the child; and
  • The court determines that doing so is in the best interest of the child.

FAQs about shared parenting in Ohio

Do Ohio courts favor one parent over the other in custody decisions? 

No, Ohio child custody laws view both the mother and father of the child as equal in the eyes of the law when determining custody. 

Does the custody arrangement dictate child support decisions too? 

Not directly. Courts in Ohio may consider the custody arrangement when calculating child support payments, but the arrangement is not the sole basis for determining which parent pays child support. 

(And be sure to check out our article about spousal support in Ohio if you have questions about how alimony impacts child support in Ohio).

The final word on shared parenting in Ohio

Here are the three key things to remember about child custody laws in Ohio. 

First, Ohio courts recognize both shared parenting plans and non-shared parenting plans. Shared parenting plans give both parents equal legal rights with respect to their child and are unique to each family regarding each parent’s involvement. Non-shared parenting plans give one parent legal rights with respect to the child while allowing for the non-custodial parent to visit and have parenting time. 

Second, shared parenting plans in Ohio can be easily modified if the parents are willing to cooperate and file the modifications jointly to the court. If one parent files a modification request, Ohio courts will only grant a modification if it is in the best interest of the child and there has been a material change in circumstances.

Third, an Ohio court’s primary focus in all child custody arrangements is the best interests of the child. 

If you have other questions about divorce in Ohio more broadly, be sure to check out our Ohio divorce FAQs.