There are various groups nationwide who want reform in child custody laws and procedures. Most but not all of the reformers are fathers who want mandatory shared custody between fathers and mothers. Rather than having a court award physical and legal custody to one parent, these individuals want the law to require shared custody arrangements. In Ohio, these types of child custody issues are similar to those that are being fought throughout the country.
All agree that in cases of neglect and abuse or other danger, these principles cannot apply. In Ohio, a shared custody or joint custody arrangement is called “shared parenting.” If the father and mother agree to shared parenting, an agreement can be approved and signed by the judge. If one of the parties has to go into the military or relocate, then a shared parenting order can be modified.
Unmarried fathers generally have less rights in most states, including Ohio. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that, where an unmarried couple are parents to a child, the mother has the preference under Ohio law; she is normally declared the legal and physical custodian of the child. However, that may change in those circumstances where a father has been at the baby’s side from day one, sharing in all of the responsibilities of bringing up the child.
When a father thus gets an early footing in establishing his parental role, that can result in increased parental rights. Sometimes, the parents will argue over the propriety of shared parenting. The court may determine that it is not in the best interests of the child, and may fashion a custody and visitation arrangement along more traditional lines.
In Ohio, as everywhere else, what is in the best interests of the child governs the child custody arrangement. Thus, a parent who is nurturing and working cooperatively with the other parent will get more responsibilities and parenting time. A parent inclined toward spite or revenge, or toward using the children as pawns in a game of one-upmanship, will be greatly restricted. Criminal and addictive behaviors or histories will also cause a restriction in parenting rights.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Illinois joins debate over custody disputes", Bonnie Miller Rubin, June 1, 2014