Hartley Law Office, LLC

The best interests of the child

When you and your spouse initially decided to sever your matrimonial bond, you may not have realized how closely you'd have to work together to ensure that the divorce process move as quickly and efficiently as possible. During this laborious process, it may seem that myriad issues have to be resolved immediately, which can interject stress into even the most amicable of divorces. In separating assets, determining ownership of property and adjusting budgets to reflect a new status, those divorcing may struggle as they balance their concerns about championing their cause and making compromises in order to keep the divorce proceedings moving smoothly.

For divorcing parents, however, even those who have maintained a friendly relationship with their former spouse may feel the most strain when debating over the custody of children. For those seeking to establish sole custody, each parent may feel he or she is more qualified than the other to retain custody of their children. When this situation arises, an objective mediator is required to determine how the child's needs will best be met. In Ohio, family court judges are responsible for determining parents' rights.

As we have mentioned on our website, the standard judges use to allocate rights is known as "the best interests of the child." While this standard may sound subjective, those tasked with assigning parental duty do use objective guidelines to aid in their ruling.

These are the aspects of family life that a judge will review in order to determine how responsibilities will be divided:

1. Past conduct

The judge will study reports filed regarding either parent's mental, physical or sexual abuse of the child. Additional testimony can be provided regarding past parental conduct. The judge will also study financial records to determine whether child support payments have been paid on time.

2. Current living conditions

In addition to reviewing a study of past actions, the judge will also look at current living conditions. In order to the support the child's best interests, judges will try to limit the changes to the child's life. Factors that can ease the transition for the child during the divorce process include remaining in the current residence, continuing enrollment at the current school and supporting family bonds by ensuring siblings reside together after the divorce. The judge may also interview the child in chambers to document the child's wishes and concerns.

3. Future considerations

In reflecting on past and present circumstances, the judge will use these events to determine whether the parent will respect the visitation and child support agreement. Another important consideration is the residence and future residence of the parent. Should a parent move from the state, this change can influence the judge's decision on a parent's responsibilities.

It is obvious that there are many factors that judges consider when assigning parental duties. Parents concerned about presenting their best case in court are advised to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

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