About Custody

Custody in Ohio reads like a story and it depends largely on your situation.

If you and the mother are not married, and a court has never issued a custody order

An unmarried mother is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a court issues an order stating otherwise. Yes, that’s right the mother automatically retains custody without having to do anything. This is largely because courts can easily assess who the mother of a child is through hospital and birth records. The father of a child is not so easy to identify unless he has taken the appropriate steps to acknowledge paternity.

The good news for fathers is, a court deciding custody shall treat both parents as standing upon an equality. Despite popular belief courts do not necessarily favor mothers.

If paternity has been established, a motion can be filed with the Juvenile Court for an allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. This begins the court process, and leads to a custody hearing.

When you get to court, you must show that it is in the best interest of the child for you to have custody. According to ORC 3109.04(F)(1)(a), The court examines several factors to determine the best interest of the child, including but not limited to:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • In some circumstances, the wishes of the child
  • The child’s interaction with others involved with child
  • The health of all involved
  • The parent who honors and facilitates court order parenting time
  • Whether either parent failed to make all child support payments
  • Certain criminal activities of either parent
  • Denied visitation while under shared parenting decree

If you and the mother are not married, and a court has issued a previous custody order

In addition to proving that a new custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child, you must also prove that there has been a change in circumstances. This is noted in ORC 3109.04(e)(1)(a). The things that are a change in circumstance are described in case law. Needless to say courts do not wish to upend a child’s life on a whim and constantly change their living arrangement, so they require a big change in the child’s life in order justify it.

For married parents, and those that have divorced

The process is largely the same. If a court has never issued a custody order than you must prove the best interest of the child. If a court has issued a custody order you must prove best interest and change in circumstances. The largest difference is that you must file your action in Domestic Relations Court.


Contact a Columbus Attorney at my Grove City office if you need immediate assistance with your divorce, custody or other family law issue. Now serving Franklin, Madison, Pickaway and Fayette counties. Now accepting cases in Columbus, Grove City, London, Washington Courthouse, and Circleville.