Child Custody & Visitation
Securing Parental Rights
Child Custody, Visitation Rights, and Custody Enforcement. I provide the guidance you need during difficult times.
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Child Custody Disputes
Going through a custody battle is a traumatic and heart-wrenching process. You must choose an attorney with whom you are completely comfortable.
Often, you will have to choose the better of two bad options and the only input you will have will be the experience and judgment of your counsel.
How an Attorney Can Help During a Dispute
Helping you understand the legal system and the divorce process
Helping you focus on your long-term and short-term goals
Helping you prepare for and deal with the typical frustrations of divorce
Helping you appreciate the whole picture as well as the immediate issues
Providing context and a framework for analyzing offers and tactics
Helping you think of what you want your post-divorce life to look like
Being your trusted and caring advisor
The Court Will Consider What is in the Best Interest of the Minor Children.
Case Investigation and Examination.
Ohio Revised Code 3109.04 is the primary statute controlling custody determinations. Assuming that you are engaged in a custody dispute, the divorce court may order an investigation to determine the character, familial relations, financial situation, earning potential, past conduct and allegations of abuse or neglect. If it feels that it would be appropriate, or upon motion of either attorney, the court may order either or both parties and any minor children to participate in a medical, psychological or psychiatric examination. Through your attorney, the report of the investigation and/or examination will be made available to either party and their counsel. The investigator, doctor or counselor will be subject to cross-examination by your attorney if the case proceeds to hearing. Typically, the costs of compiling the reports will be taxed as costs.
A court may also appoint a guardian ad litem.
A Guardian Ad Litem is specifically responsible for protecting the interests of a minor child who is in some way involved in a lawsuit.
All Guardian Ad Litems must now have training specific to their role in representing a child’s best interests. The Supreme Court of Ohio provides this training, which includes instruction in matters such as interviewing children, identifying domestic violence and dealing with substance abuse.
Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement
Custody disputes arise between parents during, but more frequently after, a divorce or dissolution, or between unmarried biological parents, and sometimes grandparents. When parents and their children live in one state, the courts of that state have jurisdiction over those matters. However, when parents live in different states, more than one state may have jurisdiction, or the power to adjudicate the matter. In this situation, parents who want to modify their custody orders can run into problems of battling courts. This is the point where the UCCJEA steps in.
Under the UCCJEA the “home state” of the child has preference, and any state that is not the child’s “home state” must defer to that state. Also, the UCCJEA provides for continuing exclusive jurisdiction in custody matters. If a state takes jurisdiction over a child custody dispute, it retains jurisdiction over the matter as long as the state maintains a significant connection with the parents, or until all parties move out of the state. This is important to keep parents from moving from state to state, jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with the purpose to delay and interfere with the other parent's child.
Visitation Can Only Be Determined by the Courts.
In Ohio, each county has a “standard parenting time” schedule to determine visitation rights. This schedule is used as the starting point and provides the parties with an idea of what the court would do with visitation absent evidence overcoming the presumption. Visitation can only be determined by the courts. A court may order a parenting time schedule with terms and conditions that vary from the standard schedule.
If a parent is unable or unwilling to cooperate with visitation, their actions may trigger a court contempt action against that parent. Such interference is also a “best interest of the child” factor that the court must consider in determining which parent should be awarded custody in any future child custody or custody modification proceedings.
When There are Allegations of Abuse
If your case involves allegations of child abuse or domestic violence the court will often restrict the visitation rights of the abusive parent. In addition, the court may order supervised visitation, designating specific pick-up and drop-off points, prohibiting the parent’s consumption of alcohol or legal drugs during visitation periods, requiring the abusive parent to attend parenting classes or counseling, or prohibiting the parent from taking the children out of state.