In Ohio, the Domestic Relations Court, or the Domestic Relations Divisions of the Court of Common Pleas, has jurisdiction over family law matters. When parents divorce, among the many factors the court takes into consideration when determining child custody is the best interests of the child.
According to a recent editorial in the New York Times, however, determining the best interests of the child can be far more difficult than one might think, especially when weighed against a parent's interests.
Courts generally grant equal weight to the rights of the mother and the father, providing that they were once married to each other, when considering child custody arrangements. Among many discretionary factors a court does take under consideration are the mental health and wellbeing of the individuals in the child's life, how the custody arrangement will effect or alter the child's relationship to his or her community, the desires of the two parents, and, to some degree, the attitudes and feelings of the child.
Typically, courts are more willing to take the desires and wants of older children into consideration than those of younger children. Unfortunately, many custody arrangements remain static after they are first set in place. This often occurs because parents have little desire to rehash the past, especially where divorce is concerned. While this is an understandable state of mind, custody arrangements developed when children are small sometimes no longer make sense for older children.
When trying to weigh the issues, the author of the editorial suggests that parents imagine an arrangement for a toddler who spends weekends with one parent and weekdays with another. When that child becomes a teenager, the arrangement may become cumbersome, especially if the teen participates in activities and has an active social life. While some parents might be able to reach new arrangements on their own, for others this may be difficult. Continuing to work with a family law attorney to revisit custody issues throughout the child's life may often be in the child's best interest.
Source: The New York Times, "In Whose Best Interest," Ruth Bettelheim, May 19, 2012