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An overview of Shared Parenting in Ohio
by John J. Ready, Esq.
When child care responsibilities are assigned to both parents in a divorce or custody action, Ohio refers to the arrangement as shared parenting. While many people call this joint custody, shared parenting replaced that term in the Ohio law books in 1991.

Shared parenting is generally encouraged and preferred in Ohio. In most cases, Ohio domestic relations courts believe children benefit from frequent interaction with both parents. Allowing both parents to actively participate in the child's life improves their ability to make good decisions regarding the child's upbringing.

While shared parenting is the preferred option, courts have other options as well. When one parent is unfit or unable to provide satisfactory child care, the court will assign all parental rights to the fit parent.

If both parents are found unfit and no suitable relative or other party accepts responsibility, the county department of family services will place children in a group home, foster care or a residential treatment facility.

Shared parenting responsibilities

Shared parenting requires both parents to bear the emotional, physical and financial responsibility of raising a child. The specific terms of the arrangement are described in a legal document known as a shared parenting plan.

By statute, an Ohio shared parenting plan sets forth all factors considered relevant to the care of the children. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Where the child will live.
  • The child support obligations of each parent.
  • Designation of a residential parent for school purposes.
  • Provision of medical and dental care for the child.
  • Schooling.
  • Child care arrangements.
  • Parenting time for the non-residential parent.
Typically, both parents have equal legal rights as they pertain to the child. These rights may be limited or extended by the court-approved shared parenting plan.

Shared parenting does not guarantee an exact division of parenting time or financial responsibilities. You and the other parent may devise an unequal division of responsibilities and gain approval from the court. A judge may decide to allot more time or responsibility to one parent.

Whatever the arrangement, the court decides the binding plan.

How shared parenting arrangements are determined.

As a legal but important technicality, at least one parent must request shared parenting for the court to consider it. Couples may present a mutually agreeable shared parenting plan they have negotiated outside of court. Or one of both parents may submit a proposed plan for the court's consideration.

If proposed plans conflict, a hearing will be held. To assist the court in determining the best interests of the children, a magistrate or judge will hear testimony from the parties as well as other witnesses.

As mentioned earlier, not every couple or person is a good candidate for shared parenting:

An individual or couple might be unwilling or unable to communicate effectively regarding day-to-day parental responsibilities.

The parents might live far from each other.

Any history or potential for emotional or physical abuse.

If shared parenting is not ordered, then one parent would retain sole-custody of the child subject to the other parent’s visitation rights.

Situations differ, wording matters.

There is no one-size-fits-all shared parenting plan. No forms exist addressing the needs of every family.

You might wish to divide responsibilities or decision making in unique ways. One parent might have final say on medical, educational or social issues. The other might retain similar authority for other issues.

Some shared parenting plans provide custom mechanisms for resolving differences or disagreements. These might include mediation, arbitration or parenting coaches. In some high conflict cases, a parenting coordinator may be ordered by the court to help the parties resolve ongoing differences related to their shared parenting plan, and may be empowered by the court to make decisions for the parties when the parties are unable to agree on certain decisions affecting the minor children.

A poorly strategized or worded shared parenting plan can create considerable difficulty for you for years to come. While you might believe your former partner will always act in good faith and the best interest of the children, you want to ensure that your rights are protected in case they do not. A court can only change a shared parenting arrangement if it a finds a material change in circumstances.

An attorney committed to the needs of you and your children can help you craft a shared parenting plan to address your situation and the best interests of your children.

Attorney John Ready practices in the Cleveland area, and surrounding communities and is member of the board and former President of The Center for Principled Family Advocacy. He can be reached at his Westlake, Ohio office at 440.871.4000, or by email at or visit the website at The Law Offices of John J. Ready and Associates


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