Sometimes a divorce does not just mean the end of a marriage -- it means a time of change for a family. Particularly when the children are of an age to express a preference regarding their living situation after the divorce, child custody matters can be sensitive both legally and emotionally.
In Ohio, children's wishes are considered in custody matters by the court system. We'll be spending some time here on our Dayton family law blog looking at just how this works and what it means. The information is intended as general background information only. It should not be taken as specific legal advice for any divorcing parents.
When ruling on child custody, the court must decide what kind of arrangement will be in a child's best interests -- whether the parents will share custody, or whether one parent will have custody and the other be allowed parenting time. A child's opinion is just one among many factors the court may look at. There is no set age threshold for considering a child's wishes, although the opinions of older children may be held in greater regard than those of younger children.
At either parent's request, the court may conduct an interview with a child "in chambers" -- that is, privately, not in open court and not with the parents present. The judge will first look at the child's reasoning ability. He or she will also consider any special factors indicating that the child's opinion should be ruled out. Even if the judge decides to proceed with the interview at this point, the preferences expressed by the child preferences are not binding.
When considering a child's wishes among the many other factors at play, the court will always work towards an arrangement that it feels is in the best interests of the child. Child custody matters can be very sensitive, but it is important that an appropriate result is met, for the sake of both the child and the parents.