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An Overview of Custodial Arrangements and Parenting Time Schedules in Ohio

January 13, 2023
child custody

In any child custody lawsuit in Ohio, there are two major matters that underpin each and every child custody order. In particular:

  • What is the relevant custodial arrangement?
  • What is the governing parenting time schedule?

Notably, parties to a child custody lawsuit often inadvertently conflate the above-listed two topics. The reason for this confusion is simple: the terminology that is used to refer to these distinct concepts, in many ways, operates to create this misunderstanding. In light of the same, this article endeavors to define and differentiate these two critical aspects of each and every child custody matter in an effort to bring some much-needed clarity to these concepts.

Custodial Arrangements

Presently, in Ohio, there are two main ways that custodial rights to minor children can be allocated between parents: Shared Parenting and Sole Custody. The main difference between Shared Parenting and Sole Custody relates to parental decision-making—specifically, which parent is entitled to make decisions for the minor children.

In a Sole Custody arrangement, only one parent (i.e., the residential parent) is entitled to make decisions for the minor children, and the other parent (i.e., the non-residential parent) is entitled to visitation with the minor children. In contrast, in a Shared Parenting arrangement, each parent is considered the residential parent—and thus, is entitled to make decisions for the minor children. Often, in a Shared Parenting arrangement, the parties must discuss and consult with respect to certain major decisions for the minor children, including but not limited to on medical, educational, and extracurricular matters, in an effort to make a joint decision. If the parents, following that discussion, cannot reach an agreement on a particular, major issue for a child, then this triggers an agreed-upon default mechanism to break the tie.

Understandably, parties to a child custody action often think that the terms “Shared Parenting” and “Sole Custody” refer to which parent has possession of the children the majority of the time. Quite frankly, it’s easy to see how this confusion could arise. Indeed, when these terms are taken at face value, it’s no wonder why many assume that the term “Shared Parenting” refers to parents “sharing” time with the children, while the term “Sole Custody” refers to a situation where only one parent has most of the time with the children. For this reason, it is not at all uncommon for a client, at the outset of a representation, to indicate that they want “Sole Custody” of their children when that is, in fact, not at all that client’s desired goal.

However, a family’s custodial arrangement (i.e. Shared Parenting vs. Sole Custody) is completely independent from which parent has possession of the children. So, if Sole Custody and Shared Parenting have everything to do with decision-making and nothing to do with which parent has possession of the minor children at any given time, then what aspect of a custody order dictates the latter?

Parenting Time Schedule

Simply stated: the parenting time or visitation schedule in a child custody order dictates how the parents are to share possession of the minor children. Although there are only two main ways to allocate custody of the minor children (i.e., Sole Custody or Shared Parenting), there are many, many different ways for those same parents to share the available possession time with their children. While these schedules, generally, take one of two forms—specifically, “equal” parenting time schedules or schedules where one parent has the majority of the parenting time—the ways that the available parenting time is, ultimately, divided between the parents can be unique in each and every circumstance.

Be that as it may, there are a handful of common parenting time schedules in Ohio that are worth highlighting in more detail.

5-5-2-2 Schedule

This is a two-week, rotating equal parenting time schedule, the benefit of which is that the longest any parent goes without seeing the minor children is 5 consecutive overnight visits. Under a 5-5-2-2 schedule, the parents alternate the weekends (often, Friday evening through Monday morning), and then each parent has the same two consecutive overnight visits with the children each business week. The following is an illustration of a 5-5-2-2 parenting time schedule:

 
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Week 1
Mother Mother (AM) Father Father (AM) Mother Mother (AM) Father
Father (PM) Mother (PM) Father (PM)
Week 2
Father Father Father Father (AM) Mother Mother Mother
Mother (PM)

 

 

Week On / Week Off Schedule

This is a two-week, rotating equal parenting time schedule, the benefit of which is that it minimizes the number of transfers of the minor children between the parents. Under a week on / week off schedule, the parents alternate full weeks with the children. The following is an illustration of a week on / week off parenting time schedule:

Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Week 1
Mother (AM) Father Father Father Father Father Father
Father (PM)
Week 2
Father (AM) Mother Mother Mother Mother Mother Mother
Mother (PM)

 

 

3-3-2 Schedule

This is a two-week, rotating equal parenting time schedule, the benefit of which is that the longest any parent goes without seeing the minor children is 3 consecutive overnight visits, which is often desired by parents of very young children. Under a 3-3-2 schedule, the parents alternate the weekends (often, Friday evening through Monday morning), and each parent gets two consecutive overnight visits with the children each week, but the specific days rotate alternate between the parents. The following is an illustration of a 3-3-2 parenting time schedule:

Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Week 1
Mother Mother (AM) Father Father (AM) Mother Mother (AM) Father
Father (PM) Mother (PM) Father (PM)
Week 2
Father Father (AM) Mother Mother (AM) Father Father (AM) Mother
Mother (PM) Father (PM) Mother (PM)

 

 

Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court Standard Parenting Time Schedule (Age 3 years and Onward)

This is a two-week, rotating parenting time schedule, which affords one parent slightly more than 50% of the parenting time. While this schedule is specific to Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court, many courts in Northeast Ohio employ a similar standard parenting time schedule for children aged 3 years and older. Under the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court’s Standard Parenting Time Schedule, the parents alternate the weekends (Friday evening through Monday morning), and then one parent has one midweek overnight visit with the children each week, while the other parent has the children the remaining days. While this schedule may sound incredibly lopsided in favor of one parent, the only difference between this schedule and a 5-5-2-2 equal parenting time schedule is the addition of one extra overnight visit each week. The following is an illustration of the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court’s Standard Parenting Time Schedule (age 3 years and older):

 
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Week 1
Mother Mother Mother Mother (AM) Father (AM) Mother (AM) Father
Father (PM) Mother (PM) Father (PM)
Week 2
Father Father (AM) Mother Mother (AM) Father (AM) Mother Mother
Mother (PM) Father (PM) Mother (PM)

It’s important to note that each one of the above-listed sample schedules assumes that the parents do not live a substantial distance from one another. Indeed, it is readily apparent that these schedules would not work for two parents that lived in different states—or even in different corners of the same state.

Instead, in cases when distance is a significant issue, there are various other parenting time schedules that are commonly implemented which differ from those reflected above. Notably, the common denominator for most long-distance parenting time schedules is that one parent has the children for the majority of the school year, and the other parent has the children for the majority of the school breaks and summer months.

Ultimately, each sample parenting time schedule in this article has its own time and place. Yet, these schedules, while most common, do not reflect the only available options for parties to share parenting time with their minor children. As a result, resources, such as those available through the Ohio Supreme Court, can offer helpful, additional sample parenting time schedules and information, to the extent the above-described schedules do not fit a family’s needs and desires.

Bringing It All Together

So, how, if at all, do these two concepts—specifically, custodial arrangements and parenting time schedules—interact? In other words, does a family’s custodial arrangement (i.e., Shared Parenting vs. Sole Custody) inherently necessitate the selection of one parenting time schedule or another?

No, not really.

In fact, having a certain custodial arrangement does not necessarily result in or require a certain corresponding parenting time or visitation schedule. For example, a family could have a Shared Parenting arrangement where one of the parents has the overwhelming majority of the parenting time with the minor children. Likewise, a family could have a Sole Custody arrangement where the parties have roughly equal parenting time with the minor children.

As there is truly no one size fits all (or most) approach, it’s important to have an understanding of and appreciation for the nuance in these two concepts. Unsurprisingly, this is where an experienced domestic relations attorney can be particularly helpful.

At KJK Family Law, we understand just how challenging navigating child custody issues can be, especially when the concepts involved are not, in fact, as straightforward as they may seem at first blush. That’s where we come in. For further guidance on these and other related matters, please contact Janet Stewart Scalley (JS@kjk.com; 216.736.7261) or another member of KJK Family Law by calling 216.696.8700.