Five Factors Influencing the Way Ohio Judges Determine Child Custody
In general, family law courts favor children. This is by design. Any Cincinnati divorce lawyer will tell you that custody disputes have nothing to do with what is easier or convenient for either spouse, but have everything to do with the children’s welfare.
With that in mind, here are five factors that often come up in custody cases.
- Observations of the Relationships Between the Child and Each Parent
For the sake of simplicity, we will write about “a child” for whom custody is being determined. Of course, many of these cases involve the living situations for multiple children. It should be noted that each child’s custody is considered separately, and each child’s situation may yield a different type of custody judgment.
Each attorney will try to present the relationship between their client and the child as positive, healthy, nurturing, and supportive. There are many pieces of evidence that the attorney may present. Photographs, video recordings, audio recordings, personal letters, email transcripts, and other documentary evidence could be used in court.
Many divorce attorneys in Cincinnati will encourage their clients to cease their social media involvement. While some social media posts could be used to present the parent-child relationship in a positive light, many posts could be damaging to the case. Photos of the parent drinking alcohol with adult friends, or posts in which the parent uses profane or inappropriate language – all of these posts could be liabilities.
- The Health of Each Parent, Mentally and Physically
Stability is a key word when discussing health matters. Courts favor stable situations. If a parent has moved repeatedly from city to city, this is often seen as evidence of an unstable living situation for the child.
Mental health diagnoses only can color these situations if the parent in question is either not taking their medication consistently as prescribed. If one parent has needed to be evaluated overnight in a hospital or therapeutic environment, it could be used as rationale for awarding the other parent full custody.
Parents with physical ailments are still often awarded full custody. If the judge feels that a parent’s condition may get in the way of being able to offer consistent transportation, for example, then that condition may become more of a determining factor.
- The Child’s Current Situation, Emotionally and Scholastically
Judges usually want the child to remain in their current school district. Again, stability.
However, if a child’s school arrangement can be portrayed as detrimental to the child – an unsafe campus environment, for example, or a dangerous situation – then the judge may favor the parent that can provide a better school arrangement for the child.
- The Child’s Preference
The child’s opinion on the matter is only taken into account if the child is of a certain age and a certain perceived level of maturity. For example, if a teenage child wants to declare which parent he or she would prefer to have custody, and that child is considered sufficiently stable and competent to have their own best interests in mind, then that stated preference may be considered. Many parents wish to keep their child out of the custody-determination process entirely, but many children fight to make their preferences understood by the court.
- Each Parent’s Criminal Record
If a parent has a criminal record, or has been arrested and is awaiting trial, it can color the judge’s decision-making regarding custody. The timing of the criminal offense – i.e., how recently that criminal activity occurred – may change the weight of this consideration as well. An offense 15 years before the child was born will not be viewed in the same light as one that happened last year.
Every divorce lawyer in Cincinnati knows that these considerations will be on the judge’s mind. The way these considerations play out, in the courtroom, will often determine the outcome of the custody dispute.