One of the most common questions I am asked by a client is “How old does my child to have to be before she can choose what parent she wants to have custody of her after a divorce in Ohio?”
The answer to this question is that there is no specific age where the Court has to rely on a child’s wishes solely when determining who will have custody of her.
In 1991, the Ohio divorce custody statute was amended and the right for a child to choose the custodial parent was deleted. The new custody statute (contained in Ohio Revised Code 3109.04 – http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3109.04) spells out a list of factors that the Court must consider when allocating custody of a child. These factors include the following:
- Wishes of the parents
- Wishes of the child
- Child’s interaction and relationship with the parents, siblings, etc
- Child’s adjustment to the home, school, and community
- Mental and physical health of all persons involved
- Which parent is more likely to honor court approved visitation/companionship rights
- Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments
- Whether either parent (or other member of the household) has been convicted of a criminal offense that resulted in the child being abused/neglected (sex offenses, etc.)
- Whether one of the parents has willfully denied the other parent his/her parenting time
- Whether either parent has or is planning to establish a residence out of state
As you will note in #2 above, the wishes of a child are required to be taken into account in a custody analysis by the Court. However, this one factor isn’t always outcome determinative as there are 9 other factors for the Court to review. However as the child becomes a teenager, this factor is probably weighted more than if the child is 7 years old. The bottom line is that your child’s wishes aren’t always determinative of the outcome of custody but they are important and taken into consideration during a full analysis under the law. If you have any additional questions regarding your Cincinnati divorce or wish to set up a consultation please contact Olivia through the information on her website.