Sole custody and joint custody are two arrangements for child custody. Sole custody grants one parent both legal custody of the child and allows them to make all major decisions regarding the child’s welfare and upbringing. The child lives primarily with this parent, while the other parent may have visitation rights. This arrangement is often used when it’s in the child’s best interest to have a stable living environment with one parent or when the other parent is considered unfit.
Joint (also called shared) custody, on the other hand, involves both parents sharing custody of the child. It comes in two forms: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. With joint legal custody, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities to make significant decisions about their child’s life. These decisions include education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.
Joint physical custody means the child lives with both parents according to a prearranged schedule. This is to ensure the child maintains a strong relationship with both parents as they grow. This type of custody needs a lot of cooperation between the parents to make decisions and manage the child’s schedule. Courts often prefer joint custody arrangements because they promote the child’s well-being by maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents.
The Child’s Best Interest
When courts make decisions regarding child custody, they focus primarily on “the best interests of the child.” This is a national standard that prioritizes the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being above all else.
The best interests of the child are considered in various legal matters, including custody disputes, visitation, child support, guardianship, protection orders, juvenile matters, adoption, and terminating parental rights. When the court sets out to determine the best interest of the child, they consider several factors. Here’s just a few:
- Each Parent’s Parental Fitness: The court evaluates each parent’s ability to provide a safe and loving environment. They consider factors like physical and mental health, as well as the parent’s willingness to support the child’s emotional and developmental needs.
- The Child’s Emotional and Physical Needs: The court will assess which parent can best meet the child’s needs, including healthcare, education, and extracurricular activities.
- Any Existing Parent-Child Relationship: The nature of the relationship between each parent and the child will be considered, including who has been the primary caregiver so far and whether the child could handle losing that emotional bond.
- The Child’s Preferences: Depending on their age and maturity, the child’s wishes may influence the court’s decision. Usually, children have to be mature enough to make this decision, and even then, it is not the sole determining factor. The child’s preference might go against their best interest, so it’s the court’s job to weigh these two things when making a decision.
- Is There Parental Cooperation?: A significant factor that the court identifies is the ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate effectively in matters related to their child. Courts favor arrangements where parents can minimize conflict and work together in the child’s best interests. If one parent is cooperating and the other isn’t, the court will consider this dynamic before making a final decision.
- Is There Continuity and Stability?: Family courts aim to minimize disruptions in the child’s daily routine, school, and community involvement whenever possible. If custody with one parent would cause few disruptions, and custody with the other would cause the child to relocate, then the court is likely to choose the first parent.
- Are There Co-Parenting Plans?: Courts often require detailed agreements outlining how parental responsibilities and time-sharing will be divided. These are very important for both the parents and the child. Keeping to this routine ensures that the child’s best interests are protected and that all court requirements are met.
- Additional Factors:
a. The relationship with other siblings.
b. History of substance abuse by either parent.
c. The availability of childcare.
d. Any mental or physical health conditions of the parents.
e. Past domestic violence or child abuse by either parent.
f. The child’s opportunity to interact with their extended family.
The best interests standard is not based on a set formula but is applied on a case-by-case basis. It considers each child’s unique circumstances and needs. Ohio courts do not just look at one specific factor but consider all of the circumstances together. Their primary concern is for the child’s safety, happiness, and security.
Butler County’s Evolving Legal Landscape
In Ohio, there is a notable trend towards shared parenting in child custody arrangements. A bill was recently introduced in the Ohio House to automatically grant 50-50 child custody in order to ensure parents share parenting time and responsibilities after separation or divorce. This bill encourages parents to work together and create co-parenting plans before involving the courts. However, there has been some opposition to this approach. Many have concerns that it might shift the focus from the child’s best interest to the interests of the parents.
Several interesting trends have emerged in child custody arrangements recently, and here are a few that affect Butler County residents the most:
- Increased Focus on Shared Parenting: Courts across the U.S. are increasingly favoring shared parenting because they recognize it as beneficial for children. This arrangement supports strong relationships with both parents.
- Focus on Parenting Plans: More emphasis is being placed on detailed parenting plans. These documents outline custody arrangements, decision-making processes, and co-parenting guidelines. They can also help to reduce conflicts and clarify responsibilities.
- Technology in Co-Parenting: Technology, such as co-parenting apps, is increasingly used for managing shared calendars, communication, and tracking expenses. This new technology encourages co-parenting while reducing conflicts.
- Recognition of Grandparent’s Rights: Many states have acknowledged the importance of grandparents in child custody cases. Ohio allows them to seek visitation or even custody under certain conditions. Ohio recognizes grandparent rights through Ohio Revised Code 3109.051.
- A New Focus on Mental Health: Courts are paying more attention to the mental health and well-being of parents and children during custody determinations. This focus helps the courts remember that they are dealing with people and not just names on a schedule. The family they are dealing with will continue on, even if they’re arrangements change. Remembering the effects these decisions can have on people helps all of us make better decisions.
Call Garretson & Holcomb, LLC, with All Your Custody Concerns
These trends indicate a shift towards more collaborative and flexible approaches when it comes to child custody arrangements in Ohio. If you have questions about your own child custody or are curious about what the future could hold, reach out to the custody attorneys at Garretson & Holcomb, LLC today. Let us remove the worry from your child custody arrangement so you can focus on your family. Call today at (513) 863-6600.