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Your Cleveland Child Custody Case: The Basics

Everyone knows Cleveland rocks. And while your lovin’ spoonful once made you happy to be mamas and papas, your Hall of Fame romance has turned a bit too much like Simon and Garfunkel. The ex that once rocked your world has now rolled out of your life and you need to figure out who will make the big decisions in your children’s lives. This article can give you a brief overview of Cleveland child custody law.

What Does Child Custody Mean?

In certain divorce, dissolution, or legal separation cases involving minor children, either the parents or the court will have to determine issues of child custody. In Cleveland, this process is known as the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. The Ohio child custody laws allow parental rights to be allocated to either one parent who is designated the residential parent and legal custodian, or to both parents if shared parenting is awarded. When making a determination of parental rights, the court will also order parenting time, formerly known as “visitation,” to the nonresidential parent. Ohio law prohibits courts from favoring one parent over the other due to the parent’s or the child’s gender when making child custody decisions.

How Does Filing For Child Custody in Cleveland Work?

The main element of a Cleveland child custody filing is a Parenting Proceeding Affidavit, which is normally filed along with a complaint for divorce, legal separation, annulment or a petition for dissolution. The Affidavit is a sworn statement listing the name and date of birth your child, their address, and whether he or she has been the subject of any other case where a designation of parental rights has been made.

You may also need a parenting plan: a set of parenting guidelines that the parents agree to or the court orders. A parenting plan generally includes agreements or orders concerning:

  • Custody;
  • Parenting time;
  • Child support;
  • Extracurricular costs; and
  • Health insurance.

While parents can agree to their own terms when it comes to creating a parenting plan, Cleveland offers Standard Parenting Guidelines that contain a schedule for parenting time that is commonly used in the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. The guidelines were developed to ensure that needs of children and parents are addressed following a divorce or separation.

While there are several courthouses in Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court handles divorces, separations, and child custody and support petitions. The court is located in Room 202 at 1 Lakeside Avenue, and can be reached at (216) 443-8800.

How Do Cleveland Courts Decide Custody Issues?

If you can agree with your ex regarding custody issues in your parenting plan, Cleveland courts will generally accept your agreement. If you and your ex cannot agree, then the court will make decisions based on the best interest of your child. In doing so, the court will consider all relevant factors, including:

  • Your child's wishes
  • Your child's relationship with you and your ex, his or her siblings, and extended family members;
  • Your child's adjustment to home, school, and the community;
  • The physical and mental health of all people involved;
  • Which parent is more likely to honor the court’s visitation and custody orders;
  • Your willingness to encourage the relationship between the child and your ex; and
  • Any history of abuse or domestic violence.

While the court can take into account your child wishes, there is no Ohio law that gives a child the right to choose with which parent he or she will reside. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide where your child will reside and whether you or your ex (or both) will make major decisions about your child based on what the court believes is in your child's best interest.

Can I Modify a Child Custody Order?

You can modify a previous allocation of parental rights and responsibilities if you can show that a change has occurred in your, your child’s, or your ex’s circumstances, and that a modification is in the best interest your child. This can happen any time after the initial child custody order.

If your ex is not complying with a court order, you or your attorney can bring it to the court’s attention with a Motion to Show Cause. Parents who violate child custody orders may be found in contempt of court.

More Resources

Dealing with child custody matters can be a complicated process, from both legal and a family perspective. You might find it helpful to speak with an experienced family law attorney. Additional information can also be found in FindLaw’s child custody section.

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