Women filing for divorce in Ohio need to make just as many preparations as men. Under most circumstances, family court judges will be inclined to provide shared custody to both parents. You may want to find a custody attorney to help you prepare for your case so you can obtain full or primary custody of your children.
Ask a Custody Attorney: Seven Steps to Prepare for Your Case
1. Understand the Laws for Unmarried Women
Women who are unmarried are awarded automatic sole custodianship of children until there are legal measures taken to award legal parental rights to the father. This can be an important rule for unmarried women to understand as it will have a direct impact on the next steps of their case, such as how they will need to respond to any petitions for parental rights submitted by the father. Custody lawyers for women in Columbus, OH can help you understand the rules that apply to your case.
2. Be a Fit Parent
As a general rule, Ohio is an unbiased state. Aside from the custody rights of unmarried mothers, any parents who share biological children will be entitled to fight for full or shared custody of their children. Ohio will focus on the best interests of the child, so it's imperative that women who want sole or primary custody can prove themselves to be a good parent.
Although every case is different, the criteria to decide who is a fit or unfit parent are relatively the same. Ohio family courts will pay special attention to the parent's ability to provide care, guidance, support, and stability; if a parent has a history of drug abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, neglect, or other criminal charges, it will be very difficult to win custody. Proof that you are a fit parent can include having a job, having a clean record, and having witnesses on your side.
3. Relevant Documents
Documents you will need include your personal records if they are relevant to your case. You may need phone logs, mutually agreed parental visitation schedule, proof of child support payments, and other notes about your ex-spouse or partner. These documents will provide evidence that you should be the sole custodian of your child. Your custody attorney may also recommend providing documents that will prove your ex-spouse or partner is an unfit parent, such as criminal records, proof of negligence or abuse, or even your child's preferences.
4. Child Preferences
In Ohio, while children cannot choose which parent they want to live with until they are 18 years old, the family court may make considerations for the child's wishes if the child is 12 years or older. These considerations for the child's preferences may not be relevant in certain cases, but some Ohio courts will take into account the child's preferences in cases where there is a history of child neglect or abuse.
5. Courtroom Etiquette
Mothers who want to win full or partial custody of children should be aware of relevant courtroom etiquette. Although child custody battles can be fraught with tension, it's still important to understand that courtroom etiquette can make a better impression on the judge and potentially help your case. In the courtroom, you should refrain from emotional outbursts, accusations against your ex-partner or spouse, or even speaking to the judge without being invited. You can ask your lawyer to give you instructions that will help you prepare for your time in court, particularly if you have to give testimony.
6. Visitation Schedule
It may be necessary for you and your ex-spouse to have a mutually agreed visitation schedule before you seek child custody arrangements. A visitation schedule is an outline of each parent's scheduled time with the child, which can include equally shared custody, custody every other weekend, or other arrangements that work with you and your ex-spouse's lifestyle.
The visitation schedule is important to have as this will prove to the Ohio family court that you and your ex-spouse are willing to share custody and that the parent who wishes to be the sole custodian of the child is willing to share custody. That said, it may not be necessary to have a visitation schedule if your ex-spouse has a history of abuse or neglect, particularly domestic abuse which would not make them a fit parent for the child, even with partial custody.
7. Courtroom Attire
Although it may not seem relevant, the clothing you wear to court may make a considerable impression on a judge. It's important to wear clothing that is conservative and sends the message that you are a responsible parent, particularly if you want sole custodianship of your child. If you weren't sure what clothing would be acceptable, please speak with your child custody attorney about the clothing that is appropriate to wear to court hearings.
Women who want custody of their children in Ohio may need to take several steps to prepare for their case. It's best to contact a custody attorney to help you prepare for court by gathering relevant documents, learning courtroom etiquette and attire, and creating a visitation schedule. A custody attorney will also help you understand the special rules that may apply to your situation, such as unmarried women having so custodianship of children until legal parental rights are claimed by the father.