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Custody Planning for Unmarried Parents in Ohio - Jonathan M. Stanley


Congratulations!  You and your partner are expecting your first child.  Or maybe you recently celebrated the birth of your child.  Or maybe you and your partner have been cooperating to raise your child for many years.  Regardless, if you and your significant other are unmarried, it is a great time for you to familiarize yourself with the broader points of Ohio’s custody laws.  Understanding how Courts look at  custody rights for unmarried parents can help you to avoid unwelcome surprises or drawn out Court battles in the unfortunate event that you and your partner separate.

First, when a child is born to an unwed couple in Ohio, the Mother is automatically deemed to be the custodial parent and retains all parental rights and decision making powers related to the child.  This is true regardless of the Father’s level of participation or financial support.  It is a common misconception that paying child support entitles a Father to be able to spend time with the child.  This is not true.  The only way for a Father to gain legally enforceable rights to a child is to receive an Order from a Court.  Even if the parents have been following a personal agreement for years, in the absence of a Court Order, the Mother is allowed to withhold the child from the Father at any time.

All that being said, custody filings do not have to be contested.   Parents who are able to work together can craft a plan that works best for both of them and the child.  An experienced custody attorney can work with Parties to make sure that all of the documents are properly drafted and submitted to the Court.  The process can be completed with as little as one short Court hearing.

What should you do in the event that you and your partner are unable to agree on terms?  Parties do not have to reach an agreement in order for a Father to get parental rights to a child.   In order to begin custody Court proceedings, a Father will typically prepare a “Complaint for Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities” along with other required documents and affidavits.  The next step is to find out where to properly file documents.  In most cases, documents will be filed in the county where the children reside.  However, there are other factors to be considered and consulting with an attorney before filing can help to prevent mistakes.  Once the proceedings have begun, the Court will have the power to address issues which include parenting time, holidays, vacations, income-tax deductions, and even school placement. 

This article should just be considered a starting point for learning about Ohio’s custody laws.  There are many situations and facts which cannot be addressed in a short blog post.  The next step should be consulting with a lawyer in order to find out how your specific situation should be addressed.  If you are interested in learning more about your options, please contact our office at (614) 670-8103 in order to schedule a free consultation.

- Jonathan M. Stanley, Esq.