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Ohio Child Custody Laws

Determining child custody is one of the most contentious and emotionally difficult aspects of separating from your child's other parent. Each state has its own laws on the types of custody arrangements the court may award and the factors that judges consider in making child custody determinations.

Judges in most states, including Ohio, must settle on a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child when making a ruling. Ohio child custody laws adhere to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

This article gives a brief overview of child custody laws in Ohio.

Types of Custody in Ohio

In Ohio, the law describes child custody as the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. This involves addressing legal custody issues, parenting time, child support, and other matters.

Legal custody involves decision-making authority about the child's life, such as education and health care. This includes where the child attends school and how to best address issues related to a child's mental and physical health. The legal custodian has the right to make these crucial decisions. In sole custody cases, the legal custodian also becomes the primary residential parent for school and parenting time purposes.

In Ohio, the concept of physical custody aligns more with the allocation of parenting time. Parenting time orders say where the child lives daily. Ohio recognizes sole custody, where one parent gets legal custody, and shared parenting plans, where both parents take part in legal decision-making and share physical custody or parenting time.

In Ohio, parents may enter into a shared parenting plan or parenting plan as appropriate. These documents establish a parenting arrangement and include a parenting schedule where both parents have ample time with the child. In cases of sole legal custody, a parenting plan or schedule is key to ensure that the non-custodial parent has a reasonable amount of time with the child.

The courts prioritize the child's best interests when determining custody, considering factors like the parents' wishes, the child's needs, and the child's relationship with each parent. Under Ohio law, one best interest factor includes whether a parent has complied with a child support order and made child support payments.

Ohio Child Custody Laws: Table

Some of the basics of Ohio child custody laws are below. See FindLaw's Child Custody section to learn more.

Relevant Ohio custody law

Ohio Revised Code

Title XXXI — Domestic Relations, Children

Chapter 3105 — Divorce, etc.

  • Section 3105.21 — Custody and support of children; support orders

Chapter 3109 — Children

Year Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act adopted


Joint custody an option?

Yes, § 3109.04(A)

Grandparent visitation rights recognized?

Yes, § 3109.051

Child's own wishes considered?

Yes, § 3109.04(B)(2)(b) and 3109.04(F)(1)(b).

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

Ohio Child Custody Proceeding

An Ohio child custody proceeding is a legal process where Ohio courts determine the most suitable custody rights and parenting arrangement for a child.

With married parents going through a divorce or legal separation, the child custody case begins when one or both of the child's parents file a complaint or petition in domestic relations (family) court. In cases involving an unmarried mother, the proceedings may begin with a paternity action filed in domestic relations court or juvenile court.

During a custody action, the court evaluates parental rights, the parents' abilities to provide medical care, the child's needs, and the existing parent-child relationship. Courts critically examine issues like domestic violence and child abuse, as they may significantly affect custody decisions.

In some disputed cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to investigate the parties' claims and recommend what would be in the minor children's best interests. The court may issue temporary orders before any final hearing or trial. It may encourage parties to try to resolve their differences through mediation.

Both parents may present evidence and testimony to support their case at the final hearing or trial. The court will issue a custody order or court order, which may include a shared parenting plan, a parenting plan, or sole custody with parenting time. In all cases, the court must weigh the evidence in light of the state's best interest factors to ensure the child's well-being and stability.

Research the Law

Ohio Child Custody Laws: Related Resources

Get Legal Help With Child Custody

When parents separate their households, they don't always agree on the child custody arrangement. Courts consider many factors in these determinations, but the court's primary concern will be the child's best interests.

One of the best ways to understand the custody process is to seek legal advice. Talk to an experienced family law attorney.

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