Finger Family | Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates

Legal issues involving children, such as the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities (child custody), are often the most difficult and sensitive matters in a divorce, dissolution, or separation. The attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates will work with you to ensure that your legal rights and the rights of your family are protected, regardless of which child-related issue you are facing. For over 35 years, Ms. Graham-Hurd has been helping Ohio clients obtain the custody, visitation and support solutions that are in their families’ best interest. For experienced advice and legal counsel you can trust, contact child custody lawyer Melissa Graham-Hurd today.

Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities (Child Custody)

This procedure was formerly known as a determination of custody before 1991. It refers to the legally awarded rights and responsibilities for the care, custody and nurturing of children. These responsibilities and children’s rights can be awarded to one parent (sole allocation of parental rights) or to both parents (shared parenting). If both parents are awarded the responsibilities, a shared parenting plan must be drafted and submitted for court approval as a shared parenting order.

Why is it important to come to a custody agreement? Whether the parents agree to sole parenting or shared parenting, it is best if parents reach agreements about parenting time and decision-making. When parents reach agreements, they are more likely to cooperate as their children grow up and provide good role models on how people can agree to disagree without being unkind. Children do best when their parents cooperate and show respect to each other. Parental cooperation creates less stress for children.

Having the court make parenting decisions for you is the worst possible scenario. Although the court seeks to do what is best for your children, the court does not love your children like you and the other parent do. The primary decision makers for your children should be you and the other parent. Asking the court to decide where your children should live and when they get to see the other parent should be the course of last resort.  Why let a judge decide matters that are so personal in nature? Attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd will work with you to achieve resolutions in a manner that allows you to protect your rights while also maintaining a civil relationship with the other parent for the sake of the children. Contact Ohio divorce attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd to schedule an initial consultation.

What will a court consider if a Judge decides custody and visitation?

When a court determines how the rights and responsibilities are to be awarded between the parents (custody is to be ordered), it must consider certain factors:

  1. What the parents want;
  2. What the child wants;
  3. The child’s relationship with parents, siblings, other significant people;
  4. The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
  5. The mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation;
  6. The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights (visitation) and companionship rights;
  7. The failure of a parent to pay child support as ordered;
  8. Any child abuse or neglect by either parent, relative, or friend of a parent;
  9. Any domestic violence by either parent or a family member;
  10. Any denial of parenting time as ordered;
  11. Plans for out-of-state residency of either parent;
  12. The parents’ ability to cooperate and make decisions jointly;
  13. The parents’ ability to encourage sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
  14. Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, other domestic violence, or parental kidnapping by either parent;
  15. The geographic proximity of the parents;
  16. The guardian ad litem (GAL) recommendations; and
  17. Any other factor relating to the child’s best interests.

Shared Parenting Plan (Joint Custody Agreement)

What is shared parenting? A shared parenting plan is a written document (ideally prepared by both parents together, but can also be prepared by one parent and approved by the other parent or the court) that reflects what the parents believe to be in the best interests of the children regarding all aspects of their care for the child/children. If a plan can successfully be drafted and approved by the court, then the time, expense, and emotional trauma of a child custody trial can be avoided.

Does shared parenting mean 50/50 time?

Shared parenting does not necessarily mean equal time with each parent. Shared parenting is more of an attitude than a practice. It continues the parenting relationships established when the parents and the child lived together as much as possible, given the separation.

What does a Shared Parenting Plan include?

Shared parenting plans must address:

  1. Decision making (Legal custody) – How will decisions about school placement, religious upbringing, sports, activities, healthcare (medical, dental, psychological, etc.) and other important decisions be made? Will decisions be made jointly and mutually agreed upon by the parents, or will the parents agree to allocate decisions on specific topics between themselves? Will one parent decide after conferring with the other parent?
  2. Parenting Time (Physical custody) – Where will the child reside physically? Decisions will need to be made about the amount of time the child will have with each parent, during weekdays, weekends, and holidays, how summer recess from school, and school breaks will be shared.
  3. Child support – How will the financial responsibility for needs of the children be shared, including health insurance, uninsured healthcare costs, tax exemptions, providing clothing, providing school lunches, paying for activities, lessons and interests, and other such money issues?

Shared Parenting Plans also typically include provisions regarding life insurance on the parents’ lives for the benefit of the child, as well as payment and decision-making for extracurricular and sports activities. Parenting plans usually also determine what should happen when one parent dies or becomes temporarily unable to care for the children and indicate how to provide for future modifications of the Plan.

Parenting Time (Visitation)

What is child visitation?

Parenting time (formerly known as visitation) is awarded by the court only if the allocation of parenting rights and responsibilities was awarded to one parent (sole custody). “Parenting time” is the scheduled time the child spends with the parent that he or she doesn’t live with most of the time (non-residential parent). There is no decision-making authority (legal custody) granted with parenting time. “Visitation” is also available for other people having an interest in the child’s welfare – see Rights of Grandparents, Relatives, and Other Non-Parents

The best parenting time schedule is one that is tailor-made for your children, keeping in mind their schedules and activities, their ages, their maturity, and their relationship with each parent. “Liberal” or “as agreed” parenting time orders are not usually approved by the court, as it prefers a written parenting time schedule in order to provide children and parents with predictability and consistency, and they can also prevent future conflict. Each county has a standard parenting time order, and those orders are different from place to place. Just because it is a Standard Order does not mean it is the right fit for your child.

If the Judge decides parenting time, what is considered?

The court must consider factors when determining parenting time schedules, including

  1. The past history of relationships with the child;
  2. The geographical location;
  3. The child’s available time, the parents’ employment schedule, holiday and vacation schedules;
  4. The child’s age;
  5. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community;
  6. The child’s wishes;
  7. Issues related to the child’s health and safety;
  8. The child’s available time to spend with siblings;
  9. The mental and physical health of all parties;
  10. How parents cooperate with one another;
  11. Any child neglect/abuse by parents or family members;
  12. Any domestic violence by parents or family members;
  13. Any denials of parenting or companionship time by either parent;
  14. Out-of-state residency of either parent; and
  15. Any other important fact relating to the child’s welfare.

Does a non-residential parent have the right to records?

Although a non-residential parent does not have decision-making authority over a child like the residential parent and legal custodian (including sole and shared parenting) does, he or she has certain rights under Ohio law, including:

  1. Access to Records – Each parent is entitled to access of any record that is related to the child that the other parent is legally provided access to under the same terms and conditions as the other parent, unless there is a court order to the contrary. Any keeper of a record who knowingly fails to comply with this provision may risk being found to be in contempt of court or fined.
  2. Day Care Centers – Each parent is entitled to access to any day care center that is or will be attended by the child with whom parenting time is granted. Access for each parent should be to the same extent that either parent is granted access to the center unless a court order states otherwise.
  3. Student Activities – Unless specifically modified or otherwise limited by court order, each parent is entitled to access to any student activity that is related to the child. Access for each parent should be to the same extent that either parent is granted access to the student activity.

Contact an Experienced Child Custody Attorney

Melissa Graham-Hurd is knowledgeable about Ohio child custody laws and can help you understand how they apply to your case. To discuss your legal options with a compassionate and experienced child custody lawyer in Ohio, contact attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd.

Related Articles

Click here to view our articles in the parenting category.