Most marriages do not abruptly end. Oftentimes a couple only divorces after years of a steadily declining marriage. Once the decision to divorce is made, it opens up a whole host of smaller decisions to be made such as property division, alimony, child support and child custody. Child custody may be of primary concern to divorcing parents. When making custody decisions it is important to understand the difference between legal custody and physical custody under Ohio law.
Legal custody in Ohio
If a parent is awarded legal custody, they have the right to make major decisions affecting the child. For example, they can decide what religion the child will participate in, whether the child will go to public school or private school and what doctors the child will see if they are sick or injured. Courts often prefer to award joint legal custody, meaning that both parents share these rights and will have to work together in implementing them. Sole legal custody is generally only awarded in extreme circumstances.
Physical custody in Ohio
Physical custody refers to which household the child lives in on weekdays, weekends, vacation periods and holidays. Oftentimes the court will award one party sole physical custody, meaning the child is residing with them most of the time and the other parent will have visitation periods, generally on weekends, certain holidays and perhaps one weeknight. Sometimes the court will award parents joint physical custody, meaning the child resides at both households during certain time periods and both parents must work together as primary caretakers of the child.
The best interests of the child
Ultimately, the best interests of the child will form the basis of any child custody decisions in Ohio. This is true both of legal custody and physical custody. It is good if parents can cooperate and co-parent together, so they can share joint legal and physical custody. If this is not feasible, then sole physical or legal custody may be preferred. What is most important, though, is that the child has the love of both parents and a safe, supportive environment to grow up in post-divorce.