Cincinnati Family Law & Divorce Blog: You Need Not Worry That Custody Decisions Are Permanent
At the termination of a marriage, parents are encouraged to reach agreements about the care of their children, to avoid the court making those decisions.
One of the biggest worries parents have, whether reaching their own agreement, or allowing the court to do so, is that they will be stuck with a parenting allocation or a fixed amount of child support for the duration of their child’s minority. This is one worry that is unfounded.
The court retains the authority (“maintains jurisdiction”) to modify all orders concerning children. This means that parents may ask the court to change the parenting schedule, modify child support, terminate shared parenting and order sole custody and any other matter involving children. The law recognizes that the needs of children change over time, and recognizes it is the obligation of the court to determine what is in the best interest of a child at any given time. There are different standards that must be met to modify a court order, depending on whether it is a financial matter or a parenting schedule but there is nothing that is deemed to be a permanent order. This is very different than other orders issued in a divorce or dissolution relating to property division-those orders may not be changed.
If parties have shared parenting, in most cases, they are required to attempt to participate in mediation before they seek court involvement to modify a parenting plan. The reason for this is because the essence of shared parenting is for parents to attempt to reach agreements between themselves about their children. However, the law recognizes that there are times when parents can’t reach agreements, and the court is available to resolve disputes.
All Ohio counties have standard parenting schedules that serve as guidelines for the court in determining a parenting schedule. In most cases, those guidelines incorporate different schedules depending on the age of the children. What may be an appropriate schedule for a 10 year old may be different for a teenager. At the time of divorce, parents or the court can determine whether the schedule should anticipate a change as a child ages. We have found, however, that most parents aren’t comfortable making assumptions that a different schedule will be preferable at a certain age, and feel better knowing that if a change is needed, it can be pursued at that time.