In a divorce, annulment, or legal separation in which children are involved, one of the most difficult parts is determining child custody matters. In some cases, a shared parenting (or joint custody) plan is established that allows for both parents to maintain contact with their child or children. At the time the decree was finalized, the situation may have been such that equally sharing physical and legal care was possible and in the best interest of the child. However, circumstances might change that, and the shared parenting plan may no longer be working favorably for the child.
In such a situation, parents may wonder whether their original joint custody decree can be modified and, if so, how they can go about doing that. The answer is "it depends," and the request must go through the court.
Considerations Made In Establishing a Shared Parenting Decree
The reason the answer is "it depends" is that the court has a duty to approve actions only if they are in the best interest of the child. When the original shared parenting plan was approved, the court likely considered various factors to ensure it was favorable for the child or children involved.
When determining whether or not to approve a shared parenting plan, what the court evaluates includes:
- How the parents interact with each other
- How the parents interact with their child or children
- Whether either parent had a history of engaging in conduct that put the child or other parent in danger
- How geographically close the parents live to each other
- What recommendations the child's guardian ad litem made (if applicable)
Before the court approves modifications to a shared parenting decree, it will once again consider various factors to determine whether or not the changes serve the best interest of the child. If they don't, the court may deny the request. It could also modify the changes so they are in the child's best interests before approving them.
Factors Involved in Determining What's in a Child's Best Interest
Several times, we've mentioned that the court's utmost priority is protecting the child's best interest. But how does the court decide what the child's best interest is?
Under Ohio law, courts will look at a variety of factors before making decisions about shared parenting plans and modifications of them. These include, but are not limited to:
- The parent's wishes
- The child's wishes and concerns (if the court determined that the child had sufficient reasoning ability to express such)
- The way the child interacts with parents, siblings, and others involved in the matter
- The mental and physical health of anyone who interacts with the child
- The likelihood parents will honor the terms of the decree
- The consistency of either parent making child support payments
- The criminal history of either parent or member of the child's household
- The history of either parent denying parenting time to the other
- The location of either parent's residence (whether they have or are planning to move out of state)
If you have questions about and need legal help with a family law matter, including issues concerning child custody, call (937) 685-7006 or submit an online contact form to speak with our Dayton attorneys at L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC. We'll provide experienced and compassionate counsel for your case.