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The “Best Interest of the Child” Standard in Ohio

The “Best Interest of the Child” Standard in Ohio
August 7, 2016 Shannon Dawes
An explanation Ohio's “Best Interest of the Child” Standard

If you are a parent contemplating a divorce or a parent pursuing a paternity action, the best option for both parents in many cases is to reach an amicable agreement regarding the allocation of rights and responsibilities to each parent. There are situations where parents cannot agree because of concerns about the fitness of the other parent or genuine disagreement about the best way to allocate parenting time and parental decision-making. When a Family Court judge in Franklin County Ohio is asked to make this determination, the “best interest of the child” standard will be the primary test used by the judge to allocate parental rights and responsibilities. In this blog, an experienced Columbus family law attorney explains what all parents need to know about this important standard for determining “child custody in an Ohio divorce or paternity action.

Columbus Divorce Attorney Outlines Best Interest of the Child Factors

Under Ohio law, a family court judge must make determinations regarding child custody based on the “best interest of the child” under O.R.C. 3109.04.   The judge will consider evidence presented regarding custody in light of the factors specified for applying the best interest of the child standard under O.R.C. 3109 plavix dosage.04(F)(1). These factors include the following:

  • Wishes of both parents
  • Adjustment of the child to home, school, and community
  • Parents’ relative likelihood to honor and facilitate parenting time
  • Child’s wishes and concerns if interview conducted in chambers
  • Mental and physical health of both parents and their child
  • Physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect by either parent or member of their household
  • Child’s interaction and interrelationships with each parent, siblings, or other persons who significantly affect the child’s best interest
  • Whether either parent resides or intends to reside in another state
  • Failure of a parent to make court-ordered child support payments

Determination Shared Parenting (aka Joint Custody) in Child’s Best Interest

Further, the court must consider all of these factors, along with some financial considerations listed in O.R.C. 3119.23, and several other factors when determining whether a shared parenting plan (e.g. joint custody) is in the best interest of the child. Some other important factors to be considered when evaluating whether a shared parenting arrangement is appropriate include:

  • Ability of each parent to promote a close relationship with the other parent
  • Recommendations of guardian ad litem for the child
  • Capacity of parents to cooperate and participate in joint decision-making
  • Proximity of parents’ residences
  • Child abuse, parental kidnapping, domestic violence, spousal abuse by either parent

Because the inquiry involved in determining parenting arrangements is complicated when parents cannot agree, legal representation is important so that evidence involving these many factors can be gathered and persuasively presented to the family law judge. Given that the statute does not provide a formula for weighing these factors to determine their relative value, the effectiveness of the presentation of evidence is critical in contested custody cases because the factors and relevant evidence often will be highly subjective.

Caveat: Judge Cannot Consider Parents Relative Financial Status

While family law judges in Ohio have wide discretion to consider many factors when deciding whether shared parenting is appropriate and the specifics of the shared parenting plan, this discretion is not unfettered. O.R.C. 3109.3 bars consideration of the relative financial status or condition of either party. Although certain financial considerations are acceptable, such as a child’s special needs, the court cannot consider that one parent has superior financial resources. While superior earning ability or more extensive resources theoretically could impact the child’s quality of life, these disparities are addressed by child support orders.

Our Columbus child custody attorneys at Dawes Legal, LLC work closely with clients to construct parenting arrangements that constitute workable solutions. We take a problem-solving approach when assisting clients in constructing shared parenting arrangements. We invite you to call us today at 614-733-9999 for your free consultation.