Is Legal Guardianship the Same as a Custodial Parent in Ohio?

By Cindy Chung

A grandparent or another caregiver who has taken responsibility for raising a child may seek a formal arrangement from an Ohio court. State laws permit a caregiver to ask the court for legal guardianship or legal custody of a child. Although a guardianship includes many of the same legal rights as the rights held by a custodial parent, guardianship and custody are distinctly different arrangements.

Custodial Parent's Rights

In Ohio, a custodial parent's rights include all rights and responsibilities relevant to raising a child. For example, custodial parents may participate in child-rearing decisions regarding the child's educational, medical and legal needs. If parents share joint custody, known as shared parenting in Ohio, both parents are the child's custodial parents. However, a court may also decide that only one parent should have parenting rights and responsibilities — some states refer to this type of arrangement as sole custody. The parent with custodial rights is the child's legal custodian and the residential parent, whereas the parent without custody is the nonresidential parent who may have visitation with the child.

Legal Procedures for Custodial Parent's Rights

Unless established otherwise by an Ohio court, only the child's parents have custodial rights and responsibilities. A parent may obtain a court order for shared custody or sole custody through a divorce case in domestic relations court or a parentage case in juvenile court. Under limited circumstances, a non-parent caregiver such as a grandparent can also request a court order for custody of a child. Ohio state laws allow a non-parent to obtain custody of a child if the state child-welfare agency has taken the child from the parents due to abuse or neglect allegations or if the state has already terminated the parents' custodial rights.

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Legal Guardianship Rights

Legal guardianship of a child, also known as a minor guardianship in Ohio, includes many of the rights and responsibilities included in parental custody. A guardianship may become appropriate if a child's parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child. A minor's guardian can take physical custody of a child by court order and make decisions regarding the child's health, education and legal needs. However, unlike custodial rights, guardianship rights do not necessarily cover all aspects of parenting — a limited guardianship assigns rights and responsibilities only as necessary depending on the needs of the minor.

Legal Procedures for Legal Guardianship Rights

Guardianship goes through proceedings in an Ohio probate court instead of a domestic relations court or juvenile court. Although the state may initiate proceedings to appoint a guardian for a child, any individual can apply to become the child's guardian. The applicant must generally pass a criminal background screening and pass the state requirements for guardianship — parents usually do not need to meet the same types of requirements before they can receive court-ordered custody rights.

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