A Child’s Wishes about Living Arrangements

A recent family law case in Vinton, Ohio highlights the fact that Ohio law often considers a child or children’s wishes about custody matters. The 11-year-old son of divorcing adversarial parents asked the court to allow him to live with the father. The son presented as mature and well-spoken. In private chambers, the magistrate asked the boy multiple questions about why he would want to live with his father. After all, his father was required to travel and work late hours from time to time. His mother operated a business from her home. Her schedule was flexible and focused on the child’s needs.

Ultimately, the court determined that the child preferred his father because of a lax parenting style. His mother was named the residential parent because the court realized she provides a home in the boy’s best interests.  If the court believes a shared parenting arrangement isn’t in the child’s best interest, then the court is likely to grant parenting rights to a residential parent. In that case, the court is likely to grant parenting rights to the non-residential parent. Ohio law doesn’t specify the age at which the child may elect his or her living arrangement. The court individually evaluates each custody issue. Determination of custody is decided on several factors.

Family court in Ohio may not prefer one parent over another because he or she has greater financial resources. Ohio courts must always determine the custodial arrangement that’s in the best interests of the child or children. Living arrangement and preference of parent is one of many factors the court considers to determine the child’s best interests. Although the parent may ask the judge to interview his or her child to determine living arrangement preferences, the judge won’t perform an open-court interview. The meeting with the child will occur in a magistrate or judge’s chambers. At that time, the child meets with the magistrate or judge or other personnel the court deems appropriate.

Parents may not be present at a meeting. At its discretion, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the child. The GAL investigates those solutions that are in the child or children’s best interests. Know that the court doesn’t necessarily follow the child’s wishes about his or her living arrangement. The court must decide what is in the child’s best interests. It will consider other factors to decide the question. However, when an older child expresses his or her wishes, the court often carefully considers these wishes unless there’s an inappropriate reason the child wants to live with the parent, such as if the parent has a “no rules” parenting style or doesn’t mind if the child uses drugs in the home.

If you’re looking for a compassionate and experienced family lawyer, contact The Law Office of Richard M. Lewis today.

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