How to File for Child Custody in Ohio

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to File for Child Custody in Ohio

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

In Ohio, if parents dispute the custody arrangement for their child, or children, they need to resolve the matter in court. The judge may grant joint legal custody, where both parents share decision-making authority. Alternatively, the judge may grant one parent primary custody and grant visitation rights to the noncustodial parent. Resolution of custody disputes will vary on a case-by-case basis.

Little girl and mother sitting on a couch writing in a notebook

How to File for Custody

To file for custody, a parent must file a formal motion and a parenting plan with the county court. If the parents agree on the terms of the custody arrangement, they can file a single motion and parenting plan. If they disagree, separate motions must be filed and the custody dispute is likely to prolong the length of the divorce process.

The motion, which is specifically referred to as a "Motion for Child Custody," is a straightforward document that requires basic information about the parents and child. The parenting plan is more complex, and must lay out how the parents will care for the child moving forward. A useful parenting plan will cover a wide range of parenting topics such as division of parenting time, child support, how holidays will be divided, where the child will attend school, transportation, relocation requirements if either parent decides to move, day care, health insurance, tax exemptions, and more.

If the custody filing is part of a divorce, the motion and parenting plan should be filed with the county's domestic relations court. If the parents are unmarried, it should be filed with the county's juvenile court. A filing fee must also be paid and if only one parent is filing, a copy of the motion and parenting plan must be provided to the other parent. Once the paperwork has been properly filed, a court hearing can be scheduled.

The Best Interest Test

The court will review the plans submitted and determine at the hearing which custody plan is in the child's best interests. Essentially, either the parents must agree on their custody arrangement or have the court decide for them. The aim is to arrive at a custody solution that will be best for the child, not the parents.

The court will look at a variety of factors in determining whether a custody plan is in a child's best interests, including each parent's character, family relations, past conduct, financial status, and earning ability.

The court may also take into account a child's wishes, depending upon their age. Ohio law doesn't provide a specific age when a child can decide who they want to live with. However, certain counties may provide for such an age. While a court may consider a child's decision, this is not the sole deciding factor as the court will also consider other best interest factors.

Once the court has approved a parenting plan, it will enter judgment and the custody arrangement will go into effect. A custody agreement may be modified at any time a court determines that a change in circumstances warrants it, so long as the modification is in a child's best interest.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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