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Ohio child custody: Let's start with the basics

Singer Michael Johnson poses the question in one of his songs, "How do you know what you know about love?" He lays out a number of scenarios for which there is no real answer. One goes like this:

     Was it when your parents told you
     They had tried but they were through
     And they both said they'd be happier
     If they cut your life in two
     How do you know what you know

Divorcing parents can face significant challenges working out custody plans involving the children. What the lyrics above seek to reflect is that while divorce is between adults, the children are affected at least as much. Because of that, Ohio law on child custody is premised on what serves the best interests of the children.


How one defines best interests is something two reasonable people could disagree upon and so it may be helpful for parents considering divorce to examine some fundamentals of child custody.

Each state has its own laws on this subject, though most strive to frame things in terms of the children's best interest. Most of the time, one parent is named as having physical custody. This establishes with which parent the child will spend the most time. Legal custody sets the parameters under which parents can weigh in on important decisions about school, faith development and health care and is often a shared situation.

Joint Custody is possible under Ohio law. It sets up a scenario under which the child spends nearly equal time with both parents. Supporters say children feel less sense of loss in joint custody arrangements. Critics suggest this form of custody can leave a child feeling unsettled. Most experts agree that the parents have to demonstrate a real commitment to cooperating for the sake of the children for joint custody to work.

In situations where parents are unmarried, the law grants sole custody to the mother unless a court says otherwise.

These are only a few of the matters that need to be addressed in child custody. To be sure that the terms of any parenting plan achieve the valid objectives of the parents and the best interests of the children, it is best to seek help from experienced legal counsel.

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