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Child Custody

Often, the most contentious part of the break-up of a marital or romantic relationship are the issues surrounding the children of that relationship. Child custody, or allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, is an emotionally charged issue that requires careful consideration and thoughtful counsel.  

Under Ohio law, decisions regarding custody and child support are required to be made with the children’s best interests in mind, and there are steps – and missteps - that parents can take before and during their litigation that may impact the outcome of the process.  

As a former children’s services prosecutor and long-time veteran of family court, Attorney Santosuosso is particularly sensitive to the effects that contested divorces or custody litigation can have on children.  We seek to reach creative and flexible solutions, without unnecessary conflict, whenever possible. Where an amicable resolution is not possible, however, we are prepared to fight for our clients and their children’s best interests.

In most cases, parties will hopefully reach a “shared parenting,” or joint custody, agreement.  In shared parenting, both parents are legally custodians and guardians of their children, but the parenting plan determines how the children will divide their time between households.  Shared parenting plans also determine things like where the children will attend school, and which parent will be the point person, or decision maker, for medical and other child-related issues.  Shared parents most often retain the right to be involved with all important decisions relating to their children.

Sometimes, shared parenting is not an option.  The Court can award “sole custody” of a child to one parent or the other, in appropriate circumstances.  Sole custody means only one parent is designated as the “decision maker” for all educational, medical and other issues relative to the minor children.  Often, but not always, whether you are a shared parent or sole custodian of a minor child will impact the amount of child support to be paid or received.

Unmarried Parents

In Ohio, an unmarried woman who gives birth to a child is automatically, by statute, the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child, unless and until a court orders otherwise. This does not mean that unmarried fathers have no rights to their children - the legal relationship between a parent and child extends equally to all parents and all children, regardless of the parents' marital status.  However, if your children are born outside of a marriage, there are a few additional steps you need to take to formalize the parent-child relationships.  An unmarried father can establish paternity by executing an acknowledgment of paternity; however, when parents are unmarried, a father does not have child custody rights until a court order establishes those rights.

Experienced legal counsel can be invaluable in navigating the emotional and legal minefields of paternity establishment, child support, and child custody for unmarried parents.

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