As you begin the custody process, you may feel nervous and overwhelmed. While it is true that co-parenting after a separation or divorce can be challenging, having a custody arrangement that best meets the needs of you and your child makes things much easier.
There are different types of custody under Ohio law, and it is important to understand the meaning of each. This will help you make better decisions when negotiating a custody agreement or preparing for a custody trial.
Legal custody involves making major decisions for your child on things such as health, education and religion. Courts commonly award joint legal custody to both parents. This means you and your co-parent have an equal right to make decisions, and one of you cannot make a choice on behalf of the child without the agreement of the other.
Many parents are tempted to fight for sole legal custody, not trusting the other parent to make decisions in a child’s best interest. Courts rarely grant sole legal custody, except in extreme circumstances, since the goal is to have both parents actively involved in a child’s life.
Physical custody involves who your child lives with and when. The two forms of physical custody are sole physical custody and joint physical custody.
A parent awarded sole physical custody is the child’s primary caretaker and the child is considered a resident of that parent’s household. The other parent receives periods of visitation. Some visitation is almost always awarded.
As with legal custody, joint physical custody is commonly assumed to be in a child’s best interest. Joint legal custody means that your child is considered a resident of both you and your co-parent’s households and both of you are primary caretakers.
Joint physical custody does not mean equal custody time with a “50-50” schedule. The schedule may depend on your work schedules, other commitments or the child’s needs, but the goal is to maximize the time your child spends with each of you.
Even with this basic understanding of custody, you are likely to have many questions. Each custody situation is unique and having a trusted custody attorney can help.