How to File for Child Custody in Ohio
By Brenna Davis
In child custody proceedings in Ohio, parents must demonstrate their proposed custody arrangement is in their child's best interests. If you want to seek custody of your child, you must show that you can provide a stable, healthy, loving environment for your child. Except in extreme cases involving domestic violence or child abuse, judges almost always grant visitation to the noncustodial parent.
Ask the clerk of court in the county where you live for a Motion for Child Custody form. Ohio law requires all custody motions have a parenting plan attached. You can obtain a blank parenting plan from the clerk, which will give you an idea of what to include in your plan, or you can draft your own parenting plan.
Complete the form and provide the full name and address of both parents and the child. Specify the type of custody you want. Ohio courts generally prefer joint legal custody arrangements, in which parents share decision-making authority but one parent provides the child's primary place of residence. Outline a reasonable visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. If you believe the noncustodial parent should receive only supervised visitation, explain why on the parenting plan. Specify on the motion that you want a hearing.
Return the form to the clerk of court and pay the filing fee. Tell the clerk you want a hearing scheduled. You must also send a copy to the child's other parent at the same time you file the motion. If you send the motion via mail, send it certified mail return receipt requested so you have a record the other parent received the motion.
Attend all hearings on your motion. Failure to attend can result in sanctions or your case being dismissed. You must also answer any discovery requests the other parent sends to you.
Fathers not married to the child's mother at the time of the child's birth must establish legal paternity before filing for custody. Do this by signing a joint stipulation to paternity along with the mother and submit it to the family court or by taking a paternity test and filing a petition for paternity.
If there is already a custody order in your case, you cannot file for custody unless there has been a change in the child's circumstances.
If you and your ex agree about custody, you can file a joint parenting plan with the court.
Family law can be extremely complex and answering motions and filing pleadings tends to be challenging for a layperson. Your interests may be better served if you hire a family law attorney.
- Ohio Revised Code: Title 31: Domestic Relations – Children
- Ohio Legal Services: Family Law: Child Custody
- Cases and Materials on Family Law; Judith C. Areen
- Dayton Divorce Help: Child Custody Basics for Divorcing Couples
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.