Child Custody and Relocation in Ohio

Learn more about relocating after a divorce in Ohio.

When parents decide to divorce, the changes can be overwhelming. After divorce, it's common for one parent to want to relocate, but this can create problems for the other parent, including decreased parenting time and increased cost for visits. In Ohio, if a residential (custodial) parent wants to move with the minor child, they must file a notice of intent to relocate with the court and the other parent. If the other parent disagrees with relocation, the court will hold a hearing to determine if the move is in the child's best interest.

Custody Basics

When parents end their relationship, they will need to work together to decide where the child will live and who will have primary responsibility of the child's daily life. If parents can't decide, a court will need to evaluate the situation to determine what's in the best interest of the child. After a custody hearing or trial, a judge will issue a parenting plan, which outlines each parent's rights and responsibilities.

Parents can request a shared or sole parenting plan. In a shared parenting plan, each parent shares responsibility (physical and legal) of the child. Although this doesn't always mean "50/50," it does give each parent more rights than a sole parenting plan. If parents present a shared parenting request to the court, and a judge determines that it's in the child's best interest, it will approve the plan. If the court doesn't believe the request is in the child's best interest, the court will tell the parents what needs to change before approval.

Generally, family courts prefer shared parenting, but if each parent presents a sole parenting plan to the court, the court will evaluate both plans individually using the best interest factors to decide which of the two plans the parents must follow. Any plan approved by the court will make sure that there is frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

In evaluating a potential parenting plan, the court will consider the best interest factors, which include:

  • each parent's wishes regarding the child's care
  • the child's wishes, if the court has interviewed the child privately and determined that the child has sufficient reasoning ability to express a preference
  • the child's interaction and relationship with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest
  • the child's adjustment to home, school, and community
  • the mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation
  • the parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights
  • whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments, including arrearages, that is court ordered
  • whether either parent or any member of the household of either parent has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused or neglected child
  • whether the residential (custodial) parent or one of the parents who is subject to a shared parenting order has continuously and willfully denied the other parent's right to parenting time, and
  • whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside the state of Ohio.

Can a Parent Relocate With a Child?

If you are the residential parent, and you want to relocate with your child to a residence other than the one listed in the parenting plan, you must inform the court of your intent to relocate. The court will send this notice to the other parent and will allow the other parent an opportunity to object to the request by holding a hearing.

In addition to objecting to the proposed move, the other parent can file a motion to modify the parenting plan to a sole parenting plan that grants them the right as sole residential parent. This is not an easy step for the other parent because the court presumes that it is in the child's best interest to move if the residential parent has decided to relocate.

What Will a Judge Consider Before Changing a Parenting Plan?

Before a court will consider changing an existing parenting plan, the parent requesting it must prove there has been a change in circumstances since the court entered the last order. If the parent is successful in this first step, the parent will then need to convince the court that a modification of the parenting plan is in the child's best interest using the best interest factors.

If a parent proves there is a change in circumstances and that the relocation is in the child's best interest, the parent will need to show at least one of the following:

  • the residential parent agrees to a change in the residential parent, or both parents agree (if it is a shared parenting plan)
  • the child, with the consent of the residential parent, or both parents in a shared parenting plan, has been integrated into the family of the person seeking to become the residential parent, or
  • the harm likely to be caused by a change in environment is outweighed by the advantages of the change in environment.

The courts are typically reluctant to modify an existing parenting plan, so parents should understand that changing custody is not an easy task. For example, in a 2000 Ohio case, a father requested a change in his current parenting plan after he received notice that the other parent was going to move 172 miles with the children. Although the court decided that the move did create a change in circumstances, the court determined that the advantages of the move outweighed any harm to the children and denied his request for modification.

In another case, the court decided that an out of state move does not constitute a change in circumstances if there is no detrimental impact to the child. The father in this case wanted a modification of the parenting plan, but the court denied this motion because the move was beneficial to the child and the mother accommodated parenting time between the child and father.

If you need to modify a parenting plan, or if you are considering relocation with your child, contact a family law attorney in your area.

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