The issue that is likely to be the most contentious in any divorce with minor children is child custody and the allocation of parenting rights and responsibilities. While it is almost always best if parents can come to mutual agreement regarding the future welfare of their children, unfortunately child custody and support issues sometimes end up going to trial. If these issues go to trial and have to be determined by the Court, the Judge will make all decisions based on his or her determination of what is in the best interest of your children. Among the factors the Judge will consider are the wishes of the parents, the wishes of the child, the child’s adjustments to his/her home, school and community, the mental and physical health of all persons involved, the child’s interaction and interrelationship with parents and siblings, and the parent more likely to honor and facilitate Court approved parenting time rights with the other parent. If the Court has a Parenting Department, as in Hamilton County and Clermont County, prior to trial the Court will appoint a parenting specialist to conduct an investigation and to address the issues in a written report that will be provided to the Court before the trial.
Adversarial Court proceedings in a trial concerning custody issues is often damaging not only to the parents but also the children. It is almost always preferable to avoid such proceedings by entering into an agreement through mediation, Collaborative divorce or negotiation. When such efforts are unsuccessful however, Ohio family lawyer John Heilbrun has extensive experience in representing clients in custody disputes, and he will assist you in the extremely difficult and emotional process of a custody trial to help insure that your ongoing relationship with your children is protected.
In Ohio, there are two ways that rights and responsibilities involving minor children can be allocated between the parties:
Shared parenting is a legal status pursuant to which parents agree to share rights and responsibilities involving the care of their children, and they agree to work together and cooperate in making certain decisions regarding their children. The specific terms and provisions of shared parenting depend entirely upon the terms and provisions included in the Shared Parenting Plan that is adopted by the Court. This Plan is required to address a variety of issues including parenting time, where the children shall attend school and other school related issues, the obligation to provide health/medical insurance for the children, child support and the manner in which decisions concerning the children’s health and medical treatment shall be made by the parents. Parents may either jointly enter into a Plan and ask the Court to approve and adopt the same, or either parent may submit their own Plan to the Court, in which case the Court, following a trial, must determine whether that Plan is in the children’s best interest.
Shared Parenting does not necessarily, nor usually, mean that the children will be spending equal periods of time with each parent.
If the Court does not Order Shared Parenting then the Court will need to determine which of the parents is to be the child’s residential and custodial parent. The parent designated as the legal custodian/residential parent shall usually have the right to make all primary decisions related to the children including school issues, health and medication issues, along with general matters of discipline.
In most cases where there is a residential/custodial parent, the children will primarily live with that parent, but will have visitation/parenting time with the other parent (known as the non-residential parent). There will be specific times scheduled for the non-residential parent to be with the children on a regular basis as well as over holidays and for vacations.
The parents may enter into an agreement pursuant to which one of them will become the residential/custodial parent or, if they cannot agree, the Court will make this determination following a trial. In this event, the Court will make the decision based upon what the Court determines is in the best interest of the children in consideration of all of the testimony and evidence presented to the Court at the trial.
Learn more by reading our pages on :
Contested custody proceedings are almost always emotionally stressful and can involve complex issues that require the assistance of an experienced, professional and strong divorce lawyer.
If you live in the Cincinnati area and are dealing with these issues, please contact the Law Office of John Heilbrun, to schedule an initial consultation today.