Columbus Child Custody Lawyers

Child Custody Process Columbus OHIf you need to have child custody determined or to manage other child custody arrangements, you need a strong legal team to go to bat for you.

At the Joslyn Law Firm, our family law attorneys are committed to the unique needs of every client.

As skilled family lawyers, we have the expertise and skills necessary to help you feel more secure in your child custody dispute. The Joslyn Law Firm is comprised of locally and nationally recognized attorneys.

Brian Joslyn, one of few attorneys selected as one of the Best Attorneys in America by Rue Ratings, has become a well-respected attorney throughout Columbus and Franklin County.

If you choose the Joslyn Law Firm, know that you are represented by the best attorneys that the area has to offer. Call the Columbus child custody attorneys today at (614) 420-2424 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online.

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Our lawyers are experienced in child custody and will strive to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. You can have our attorneys provide a free case evaluation by submitting your information in the form below.

Ohio Child Custody Lawyer Information Center

    1. Child Custody and Shared Parenting for Ohio Parents
      1. Legal and Physical Custody
      2. Defining Shared Parenting Time
    2. What Is the Process for Establishing Custody?
      1. Meet With a Child Custody Attorney
      2.  File a Case in the Proper Court
      3. Initial Case Management Conference
      4. Ohio Law May Require Mediation Before Returning to Court
      5. Discovery and Back-and-Forth Communications
      6. Follow-Up Hearings for Status and Discovery Updates
      7. Pre-Trial Conference
      8. Trial And Custody Order
    3. How Does a Judge Decide Custody Disputes?
    4. Hiring a Child Custody Attorney in Ohio

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Child Custody and Shared Parenting for Ohio Parents

Child custody disputes can cause considerable stress and frustration for the parents involved. Custody proceedings impact families in many situations and are often not limited to divorce proceedings. Unmarried parents can also find themselves disputing custody for many years. And it is not uncommon to end up needing the services of an experienced family law lawyer to help with parental alienation cases in Ohio when parents are openly trying to turn their children against their ex-spouse.

Many people have heard the terms “legal custody” and “physical custody.” If you are a parent and separating from your child’s other parent, a solid understanding of these terms can make the difference when you go to court and mediation hearings to plan your co-parenting future.

Legal custody is a parent’s ability to make significant choices for a child’s upbringing, including:

  • Major medical care and general healthcare;
  • Religion; and
  • Education

If you are a parent, you realize the importance of these things and want to be involved in these decisions. Unless there is a good reason why parents should not share the ability to make decisions, courts are unlikely to grant sole legal custody to one parent.

Physical custody refers to a child’s living arrangements and day-to-day activities. If one parent has more of these responsibilities, that parent is called the “residential parent.”

Defining Shared Parenting Time

Many people are familiar with the phrase “joint custody.”

Over the years, many states, including Ohio, have completely shifted or have started to shift away from this label. Society considers the term outdated since it fails to accurately represent how parents work together to raise their children.

Rather than give separated parents “joint custody,” which only tends to draw battle lines between parents, the law strives for separated parents to work together as co-parents.

The same reasoning applies to the word “visitation,” a term once common among separated parents. Although “visitation” is still a term used to describe time spent between the child and other persons, like grandparents, the term is no longer used in Ohio for co-parents.

Thankfully, the Ohio legislature has simplified custody labels for courts and parents. Under Ohio law, joint custody is now commonly referred to as “shared parenting.”

When parents have shared parenting of a child, they share the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting and the authority to make major life choices for the child. Courts strongly prefer that parents agree to a shared parenting arrangement.

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What Is the Process for Establishing Custody?

The process is heavily determined by the ability of the parents to work together, whether they are unmarried or getting divorced, and other factors like domestic abuse. Parents who can work relatively well together and compromise can establish custody within a few months.

They can also avoid long-term familial disputes and avoid future legal disputes if they can make compromises. Those separating parents who cannot compromise find themselves addressing custody for many months or for over a year.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has also extended the amount of time it takes families to settle disputes, leaving many families without the final resolution of important issues for reasons beyond their control.

Regardless of the length of time, the process of establishing custody has generally remained the same over the years.

Because custody determinations have long-term impacts on the lives of parents and children alike, it is crucial to think before acting so that you understand the law and intelligently consider your options.

The following steps provide a general summary of the custody process, but it is common for many of these steps to overlap.

Meet With a Child Custody Attorney

The representation and advocacy of an experienced and skilled child custody attorney can help you achieve the best possible result in your case. Custody disputes are often emotionally charged, and it can be difficult to avoid the stress they may cause.

The attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm are prepared to present your best case so you can focus on your child’s needs, as well as your needs. Because family law is one of our areas of specialization, we communicate our knowledge of Ohio custody laws to our clients so they also thoroughly understand them.

You are entitled to know and understand your rights as a parent when you end your marriage or separate. Meeting with an experienced attorney before taking any action gives you a great place to start the process.

You and your attorney should discuss the options that may fit the circumstances of your case.

In some situations, parents participate in mediation instead of immediately filing a civil case in court. In many other situations, attorneys assist parents with filing a case, and mediation may occur depending on the circumstances.

File a Case in the Proper Court

Assuming you and the other parent are not participating in mediation before filing a divorce petition, a custody case begins when you file the appropriate documents with the proper court.

An Ohio domestic relations court addresses divorce cases when children are involved. Unmarried parents who have already determined the father’s paternity must establish custody in juvenile court. Both of these courts are located within your county’s Court of Common Pleas.

Regardless of where you need to file, your attorney can ensure that all documents are timely filed at the appropriate courthouse.

Initial Case Management Conference

These conferences, sometimes called an “ICMC,” are the first time that attorneys and parties appear before a judicial officer. This conference may function more as an informal meeting between the judicial officer and the parties. Under the Ohio Civil Rules of Procedure, an ICMC must occur within 90 days of filing the case.

The ICMC can cause the custody process to take many different paths. The judicial officer typically requests an update and a plan from the parties.

The parties or judicial officer might address the following topics:

The ICMC can cause the custody process to take many different paths. The judicial officer typically requests an update and a plan from the parties. The parties or judicial officer might address the following topics:

  • Deadlines for discovery;
  • Possibility of mediation or arbitration;
  • Possibility of settlement;
  • Appointment of a guardian ad litem;
  • Emergency or temporary custody concerns; and
  • The scheduling of pre-trial, trial, and conference dates.

Depending on when the parties hire attorneys, ICMCs might not be as useful because attorneys have not had enough time to review the case or meet with clients. Either or both attorneys can request a new date for the ICMC, called a continuance, providing more preparation time to meet with parties and evaluate the case.

Judicial officers can order parties to mediation at an ICMS. Even if the parents and attorneys believe mediation will be unproductive, judicial officers still have the discretion to order mediation. After an ICMC, the presiding judicial officer will issue a court order that outlines the plan presented by the parties at the hearing, including any plan to mediate.

Ohio Law May Require Mediation Before Returning to Court

Because the possibility of mediation in any custody case is highly probable, it may be a step in itself in the child custody process. Ohio law allows judicial officers to require parents to attempt the resolution of custody issues through mediation before returning to court.

Mediation is a confidential, semi-structured, and informal conference that includes a mediator, parents, and attorneys. The mediator is a neutral third party that facilitates discussion about custody and parenting time issues but cannot provide legal advice.

Attorneys may guide their clients during the process. Unlike a court proceeding where attorneys do most or all of the talking, parents do most of the talking in mediation. Parents can openly and honestly discuss what they need and want for their children, with the mediator helping them reach a final agreement.

One of the benefits of mediation is that parents are not pressured to resolve their disputes. Instead, mediation is an attempt to come to a partial or full agreement. Even a partial agreement in mediation is considered a success.

Sometimes parents do not come to a full agreement because they need more time to consider the issues. Both parents can continue to work with their attorneys after mediation toward a final custody settlement.

If the parents reach a full agreement, they can present a shared parenting plan to the presiding judicial officer. The agreement is included either in a final decree or a stand-alone custody order.

Discovery and Back-and-Forth Communications

Discovery is the process where parties exchange information in preparation for trial. For custody cases, discovery typically includes information about the parties’ finances, employment, housing, and any other relevant facts.

If the judicial officer ordered the parents to complete psychological evaluations or ordered a guardian ad litem to act on behalf of the child, the discovery process would also include the review of any expert reports.

Sometimes discovery will include more formal methods for exchanging information, including depositions and interrogatories.

Depositions are formal and recorded interviews, usually between a parent and opposing attorney or a third party and an attorney. Interrogatories are questions that one parent can pose to the other to discover information. Although these discovery methods may remain available throughout the process, they are not often used due to time constraints and costs.

Both parties are expected to participate in the discovery process. Due to the high number and nature of custody cases, attorneys and parents are expected to comply with the discovery process in a timely fashion.

Follow-Up Hearings for Status and Discovery Updates

After the ICMC and throughout the discovery process, courts prefer that attorneys and parents schedule follow-up hearing dates to address discovery issues and/or provide updates to the court.

These follow-up hearings can occur anywhere between 30 to 90 days after the ICMC, with each hearing occurring one month or more after the last. The actual hearings dates and the number of hearings are highly dependent on whether the parents were ordered to complete evaluations, mediation, and whether more formal discovery is necessary.

Some parents settle their dispute before needing any follow-up conferences, while others require several before they move to the next phase.

Ideally, parents will not need to proceed beyond this point because they have reached a full settlement and are ready to submit a custody agreement to the judicial officer.

Pre-Trial Conference

If parents reach the pre-trial conference stage, it means they have failed to reach a complete agreement in their custody dispute and need to prepare for a trial.

By the time parents have reached this stage, hopefully, they have resolved a few issues.

For example, if you and the other parent strongly contest the details of a shared parenting schedule but both agree that you should share the responsibility of making major life decisions for your child, you have accomplished something.

Perhaps you agree to split time with your child, but you cannot agree on the schedule. The pre-trial conference is the time to tell the judicial officer about the issues that you have resolved. In some cases, the parents will not agree on any issues.

In either case, a trial is the final step.

In preparation for trial, the judicial officer and the attorneys will address potential and appropriate evidence that may be used at trial. Like the ICMC hearing, the judicial officer will issue an order that outlines the deadline for the final list of evidence to be used at trial, including expert reports, exhibits, testifying witnesses, and the deadline for objections.

These dates are extremely important and must be met. An experienced family law attorney is well-versed in these deadlines and can ensure that these and all deadlines are always met in a timely fashion.

Trial and Custody Order

A trial is an opportunity for both sides to present their exhibits, call witnesses for testimony, and persuade the judicial officer to grant a custody order in their favor.

Depending on the case, a trial can last for a few hours or several days. For those cases that require more than a day, courtroom proceedings may not occur on consecutive days. The court calendars (schedules) of judicial officers are typically booked a month or more in advance, depending on the type of hearing.

Courts became severely overbooked because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many trials pushed back several months. As the pandemic has declined in severity and courts have had more time to adjust, trial scheduling has improved. Still, if you believe a trial may be necessary in your case, know that your case may not be resolved for many months.

Although trial scheduling might seem disappointing, our attorneys make every effort to reduce the number of trial days or, if possible, come to a partial or total settlement before we get to the trial stage.

Following the trial, the presiding judicial officer will issue a court order that defines custody and outlines a parenting plan.

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How Does a Judge Decide Custody Disputes?

When parents submit a shared parenting plan or a trial has concluded, the judge will compare the parenting plan or trial evidence to the Ohio best interests of the child factors. These factors focus on the child’s well-being and provide the legal basis for a judge’s decision.

The judicial system strongly prefers parents who can work together to resolve their parenting disputes. If a shared parenting plan reflects the best interests of the child, a judge is likely to approve the plan.

The relevant factors include:

  • The parent’s wishes for the child’s care;
  • The child’s wishes (if interviewed by the judge);
  • The child’s adjustment to the home, school, and community;
  • Mental and physical health of the parents (and anyone else) involved;
  • Which parent is more likely to follow and facilitate a custody order;
  • Whether a parent has failed to pay child support payments;
  • Whether either parent or anyone in a parent’s household has been convicted of a crime relating to children; and
  • Whether either parent has established or plans to establish residence out of state.

When a judge reviews trial evidence, some factors naturally become more important than others.

For example, if neither parent has alleged any mental health problems, then that factor is not relevant to a judge’s decision.

On the other hand, if one parent is currently living with someone with a criminal conviction for a crime relating to children, that factor is likely to play a significant role in a judge’s decision.

However, the factors’ relevance and importance are highly dependent on the facts of each case, so it is important to consult with a qualified family attorney to guide you during the process.

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Hiring a Child Custody Attorney in Ohio

The results of a child custody case are likely to have long-term impacts on you, your child, and the relationship between you and the child’s other parent.

However, it is unnecessary to experience a difficult custody case alone, as you can always speak with a family law attorney.

The Columbus OH child custody lawyers at Joslyn Law Firm effectively manage child custody cases on a regular basis. Our child custody lawyers are ready to guide you through your custody dispute and present the best possible case for your situation. Call us today at (614) 420-2424 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online.

Request Free Consultation »

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What Our Clients Say

Read this 5-star Google review below regarding a complex child custody case in Columbus OH

I have a complex custody case, and had no idea where to start. I started researching family law attorneys in Columbus and found Joslyn Law Firm. I spoke with Ashley Dollins and after listening to my entire story she gave me very good advice on what I need to do. She was so kind and patient and I am very grateful she is the first person I spoke with regarding getting to see my daughter again. It is clear she is very knowledgeable regarding family law cases, especially a highly complicated case as mine.

By: Matthew Neiman
Rating: 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
September 22, 2021
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This page was last updated by Brian Joslyn

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