Child Custody And Parenting
Changing a child custody order is not easy. But in cases of abuse or violence, you need an experienced family law attorney. The lawyers of Phyllis G. Bossin & Associates, A Legal Professional Association, in Cincinnati can help.
We represent clients in all aspects of parenting issues in Hamilton and surrounding counties.
In a divorce, dissolution or annulment, or in other types of custody proceedings, such as in paternity cases, the court must make an order for the allocation of the parental rights and responsibilities. Ohio Revised Code 3109.04 sets forth the criteria for parenting determinations.
In Ohio, the court can designate one of the parents as the residential parent and legal custodian of the children or the court can order shared parenting, which means that both parents will be the residential parents and legal custodians.
There is no legal presumption in favor of shared parenting in Ohio. Sole custody and shared parenting stand on equal legal footing, although many courts prefer shared parenting. The parents can submit a joint shared parenting plan and ask the court to approve it.
Alternatively, each parent can submit a plan and ask the court to adopt that plan. The court must find that shared parenting is in the best interests of the child and that the terms of the shared parenting plan specifically are in the best interests of the child.
In determining the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, the court must consider many statutory factors, including:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes of the child (in some cases)
- The child’s interaction with parents, siblings and other persons who may significantly affect the child’s best interest
- The child’s adjustment to home, school and community
- The mental and physical health of all persons involved
- The parent more likely to honor and promote the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Whether a parent has been convicted of domestic violence or child abuse
- Other factors
Additionally, before awarding shared parenting, the court must also consider the ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly with regard to the children; the ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other parent; any history of domestic violence or child abuse; the geographic proximity of the parties to one another and any recommendation of the guardian ad litem, if there is one.
Shared parenting in Ohio does not necessarily mean shared physical custody or equal time sharing. While some states differentiate between shared legal custody and shared physical custody, Ohio’s statute simply permits “shared parenting.”
The specifics of the arrangement must be set forth in a shared parenting plan. The plan must address all aspects of care for the children, including the physical living arrangements, provisions for medical and dental care, school placement and child support obligations. Most plans also provide for religious upbringing and activities of the children. Others address travel abroad with the children. Some shared parenting arrangements provide for an equal sharing of time but many provide for the children to spend the majority of time with one parent, while the other parent has scheduled parenting time.
The terms of the shared parenting plan are often highly controversial. If the parties cannot reach agreement on the terms of shared parenting, then a custody trial will take place, in which case the court will adopt one of the parent’s plans, or reject both plans and require certain provisions to be included in a new plan. This type of custody litigation is no different than litigation for sole custody. It requires a high level of courtroom advocacy skill.
Oftentimes, one parent is seeking shared parenting while the other parent is seeking to be designated the sole residential parent and legal custodian. In some cases, both parents are seeking sole custody. In these cases, a custody trial will also ensue and again requires consummate legal skill.
When custody is an issue in a case, the court may order an investigation into the character, family relations, past conduct, earning ability and financial worth of each parent, and may also order the parents and children to submit to medical, psychological or psychiatric examinations. Some courts have in-house staffs who conduct parenting investigations, while others simply appoint psychologists. Most contested custody cases involve at least one forensic psychologist doing a child custody evaluation. Many custody cases also involve the appointment of a guardian ad litem, a lawyer appointed to represent the best interests of the child.
Custody litigation is complex and requires the highest degree of expertise, including understanding psychological evaluations and testing, being current in the psychological research on divorce and parenting, and consummate trial skills. Attorney Phyllis Bossin is recognized as the legal custody expert in the Cincinnati area and has handled some of the most complex custody cases litigated.
For information on shared parenting and for kids whose parents are divorced, please see the following articles: