Change of Custody Fact Sheet

An Ohio court cannot change custody from you to the other parent unless certain requirements of the law are met.  The court must review certain facts in deciding whether to change custody.  

The court must decide if there has been a “change of circumstances.”  This change of circumstances can be the child’s or the custodial parent’s (or a parent in shared parenting plan).  The change of circumstance must have occurred after the last custody order.  Issues the court has heard and decided cannot be raised again.  New issues could include the mental health of the custodial parent, frequent changes of residence, abuse or neglect of the child or his education, or substance abuse.  Other issues may be considered.  However, the situation must have a direct, adverse impact on the child.  Often, a parent seeking custody will try to combine minor events or situations to show that there has been a change in circumstance.  

Once the court finds that a “change of circumstances” has occurred, the court must determine if:

  • the present custodian has agreed to the change of custody;
  • the child has been placed in the other parent’s home by the custodial parent and is integrated into that home; or
  • the harm likely to be caused by the change of environment is outweighed by the benefit of placing the child in the other home. 

Ohio law creates a presumption in favor of keeping the child with the current custodian.  However, if there’s enough evidence the court will change custody.  The court must consider the following factors in deciding what is in the child’s “best interest:”

  • the wishes of each parent;
  • the wishes and concerns of the child;
  • the child’s interaction with parents, family and others such as neighbors, friends, teachers;
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
  • the mental and physical health of all persons involved;
  • the parent most likely to facilitate visitation;
  • whether a parent has failed to pay child support;
  • whether the custodial parent has willfully denied visitation to the other parent;
  • whether either parent is planning to establish an out-of-state residence;
  • whether either parent has physically or sexually abused children; and
  • whether either parent has committed domestic violence involving a family or household member.

Any mature child may state an opinion as to who should be the legal custodian.  The child’s wishes are one of many factors the court will review.  The court may interview a child in chambers (privately) if either parent requests it.

The court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL).  A GAL will investigate and report to the court.  The GAL will talk with parents, teachers, counselors and others.  The GAL will review records.  The GAL may make home visits.  The GAL also will talk with the child.  Parents should cooperate with any guardian ad litem appointed to a case.  Provide the names and telephone numbers for your child's teachers, counselors, pediatrician and others who may have knowledge of your child's needs and the environment.

The court may order an investigation.  The investigator will determine the character, family relations, past conduct, earning ability and financial worth of each parent.  The court can order the parents and minor children to submit to medical, psychological or psychiatric examination. 

If the court determines neither parent should have custody, the court can award custody to a relative.  The court can also move the case into juvenile court if needed.

If the other parent has filed for custody or shared parenting and you object, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible. 


This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.
Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012.