Cleveland Child Custody Attorneys
Child custody matters are often the most personal and challenging cases we handle for clients. While a divorce or separation from a long-term partner is always challenging, it becomes even harder if you have children. Besides the emotional challenge of not living with your children full-time, you and your former partner must work together to create a co-parenting plan, determine the best child custody arrangement, and continue to work together to minimize the disruption to your children’s lives.
Custody disputes can take place within a divorce or, for unmarried parents, as a separate legal action in Juvenile Court. Regardless of the venue, each child custody case is unique and often emotionally trying for the parents involved. Whether you’re going through a divorce or dealing with the loss of a spouse and wondering about grandparents’ rights, a child custody attorney at KJK can ensure your rights and your children’s rights are protected.
Important to Consider:
Types of Child Custody
Ohio courts make child custody determinations based upon a “best interest” of the child standard. These courts have broad discretion to determine an appropriate custodial arrangement for your children if an agreement cannot be reached. There is a wide range of child custody frameworks in Ohio, with the main categories of interest typically including decision-making responsibilities and parenting time.
In a divorce or separation, you must consider whether one spouse receives sole custody or you share in the responsibility with joint custody. Additionally, Ohio has some stipulations for grandparents’ custody rights in the case of divorce, child custody matters, or the death of a parent.
Sole custody is relatively rare in Ohio. It gives one parent control over all the decision-making responsibilities making them the residential parent, with the other, non-custodial parent likely entitled to some amount of visitation with the children. If your former partner is abusive or has a history of substance abuse, speak with your KJK lawyer about whether requesting sole custody may be appropriate.
However, just because your former partner receives sole custody doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay child support. You must provide financial support for your child, even if you lose the right to visitation. Child support in Ohio is a complicated matter, and it’s best to have your lawyer speak with the courts to ensure the amount you must pay is correct and feasible.
Joint Custody or Shared Parenting
This is the most common type of child custody in Ohio. Shared parenting means the children live with both parents, for example, on alternating weeks. It also means both parents share the decision-making responsibility. If you have a shared parenting agreement, both parents become the residential parent.
Shared parenting isn’t always an even 50/50 split. It could mean one parent gets weekends or has the kids over the summer.
If you have more than one child, you could have split custody. This type of custody happens when one parent primarily has custody of one child while the other parent lives with their second child.
For example, if a family has two children, an older daughter, and a younger son, the daughter could spend most of her time with her father, while the younger son lives primarily with the mother. This could occur because the mother moves out of the daughter’s school district, or the younger child is still breastfeeding, among other reasons.
Protecting the Child’s Best Interests:
How the Child Custody Process Works
There are 10 major factors that the court takes into account when considering a child custody case. The goal is always to protect the child’s best interests, rather than the parents’ interests or desires.
At KJK, we want to help you achieve what is best for your child. If possible, we can help you and your former partner find a way to create a custody arrangement and parenting time schedule without litigation. However, in other circumstances—including if one spouse is abusive or has a history of poor parental decision making—we can work with you and the courts, if need be, to ensure the safety of your children.
10 Major Factors the Court Considers during a child custody case
- Wishes of the child
- Wishes of the parents
- The child’s relationship with each parent, grandparents or other members of his or her family
- Failure to make child support payments
- The parent more likely to honor and facilitate the parenting time or visitation schedule
- History of neglect or abuse
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community
- Mental and physical health of the parents and the child
- History of preventing the other parent from seeing the child
- Whether a parent has established or is planning to establish a residence outside of the state.
How Long Does the Child Custody Process Take?
The length of time to determine child custody depends on a variety of factors. If you and your former partner can work together amicably to create a custody arrangement and parenting time schedule, it could take a minimal amount of time. However, if one or both parties disagree as to the custodial arrangement and/or parenting time schedule that is in the best interest of the children, there could be a lengthy court battle involving witnesses and expert testimonies.
Sometimes, the court appoints a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), who does a thorough investigation on behalf of the child, eventually making a recommendation to the court as to the best interest of the child, including an appropriate custodial arrangement and parenting time schedule. While using a GAL can extend the process, it can be helpful in some circumstances.
Working with an experienced child custody attorney at KJK may help shorten the process. We know the available tools, resources, and options and can help you craft the best and most efficient strategy for your particular custody case.
Who Determines Your Child Custody Plan?
While the court has the final say in your child custody arrangement, the parents can always work together to reach an agreement as to a custody arrangement and parenting time schedule which they believe to be in their children’s best interest. In fact, doing so often results in the most workable outcome for both parties and their children.
However, when the parties are unable to reach an agreement as to an appropriate custodial arrangement for their children, then the court will make that decision for them following a full evidentiary trial on the matter.
Ready to Take Up Your Fight:
High-Conflict Child Custody Cases
At KJK, our attorneys have vast experience and expertise in handling child custody disputes, including high-conflict child custody matters involving parental alienation and child abuse.
High-conflict cases involve issues such as parental alienation, where a child is manipulated by one parent into displaying unwarranted hostility and disrespect for the other parent. Parental alienation cases are often difficult to identify and even harder to resolve.
Other issues that frequently appear in high-conflict cases include child abuse, substance abuse and parents with mental health issues such as borderline or narcissistic personality disorders. The presence of these issues in a custody case makes resolution by agreement very difficult and often leads to prolonged custody battles. If you find yourself involved in a high-conflict child custody case, contact us today for assistance. We are ready and willing to take up your fight.
Child Custody Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to do a 50/50 parenting time schedule?
No—and when it comes to selecting a parenting times schedule, in general, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for every family. Ultimately, in Ohio, what the court (and the parties) are tasked with doing is crafting a parenting time schedule that is in the best interest of the minor children of the marriage. Depending on the facts of a case, what is in the best interest of the minor children of one family may not be in the best interest of the minor children of another family. Even among the families who do have a 50/50 parenting time schedule, the equal time is often—and can be—allocated in various different ways. For example, the “one week on / one week off” parenting time schedule and the “5-5-2-2” parenting time schedule are both common 50/50 parenting time schedules. However, as a practical matter, each schedule has a very different look and feel as it relates to how the parenting time is allocated between the parents.
What is the difference between Shared Parenting and Sole Custody?
In Ohio, there are two (2) main ways that custodial rights to minor children can be allocated between parents: Shared Parenting and Sole Custody. Although the term “joint custody” is commonly used in popular culture, it is not, in fact, a type of custodial arrangement in Ohio. The main difference between Shared Parenting and Sole Custody relates to parental decisionmaking—specifically, who is entitled to make decisions for the minor children of the marriage. In a Sole Custody arrangement, only one parent (i.e. the residential parent) is entitled to make decisions for the minor children of the marriage, and the other parent (i.e. the non-residential parent) is entitled to visitation with the minor children of the marriage. 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 of the marriage—when the minor children are in that parent’s care. It is also important to note that a family’s custodial arrangement (i.e. Shared Parenting vs. Sole Custody) is completely independent from the visitation schedule that the parents enjoy with the minor children. Thus, having a certain custodial arrangement does not necessarily result in or require a certain corresponding parenting 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.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
In Ohio, a Guardian Ad Litem (or GAL) is an individual (often a lawyer) who is appointed by the court in certain custody and parenting matters. A GAL can be appointed if requested by a party, or the court can, on its own, unilaterally decide to appoint a GAL. The role of the GAL is to conduct an investigation into the best interest of the minor children of the marriage, and ultimately, issue a recommendation to the court as to the same. During the course of his or her investigation, a GAL will, typically, interview the parties, the children, and any relevant third parties with pertinent knowledge, including the minor children’s healthcare practitioners and teachers. The GAL will also, typically, request and review relevant documents pertaining to the minor children and the parties. Toward the conclusion of the matter, the GAL will issue a report which summarizes the actions that he or she took during the course of the investigation as well as his or her ultimate recommendation as to the best interest of the minor children.
At what age will the court take into account the minor child’s wishes and desires as it pertains to custody and parenting time schedule?
Regardless of a minor child’s age, his or her wishes and desires as it pertains to custody and parenting time schedule are always but one of the many factors that an Ohio court considers when making decisions on these issues. Ultimately, the overarching standard that the court must utilize in order to make such decisions is the best interest of the child. This is, necessarily, a fact specific inquiry that has a different result depending on the circumstances of a case, irrespective of the age of the child at issue or his or her wishes and desires on parenting time and custody. However, as a practical matter, common sense dictates that the stated wishes and desires of a teenager are likely to be given more weight than those of an infant or a very young child.
I want our children to be enrolled in the public school district associated with my home address and not my spouse’s home address – do I need to have Sole Custody in order to do that?
Not necessarily. In order to have the minor children enrolled in the public school district based on a particular parent’s home address, in Ohio, all that would need to happen is for that parent to be designated as the Residential Parent for School Purposes. A parent’s designation as the Residential Parent for School Purposes—which solely relates to which parent’s home address will be used for the minor children’s public school enrollment—is independent from the custodial arrangement (i.e. Sole Custody vs. Shared Parenting).
We’re Here to Help:
Hire a Trusted Cleveland Child Custoday Attorney
At KJK, our seasoned attorneys have extensive experience in family law matters, from creating prenuptial agreements to helping you divide your marital property after divorce. For help with your child custody case, call us today to schedule a consultation.