Child custody, visitation and shared parenting

Custody, parenting time (sometimes called "visitation" in other states) and shared parenting are important terms to understand when you're getting divorced with kids. Read more to find out what you need to know.

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If you have minor children, you will need to plan for them as part of your divorce or dissolution. As you think about what’s best for your children, it’s important to understand some of the key terms: custody, parenting time (also called visitation) and shared parenting. Once you decide what you’d like to ask for you will need to propose a parenting plan to the court.

Keep in mind that whatever custody arrangement you make doesn’t directly affect how child support works.

What is "custody"?

As part of your divorce or dissolution filing, you must include how you want custody to be awarded for your children. The court refers to this as "Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities" because it's about more than just who the child lives with. 

In Ohio, there are 2 primary types of custody. There is "physical custody," or who the child lives with, and "legal custody," or who is responsible for making decisions related to things like school, religion and medical care for the child.

Both of these kinds of custody can be "sole" (assigned to one person) or "shared." Shared legal custody is called "shared parenting." Shared parenting is becoming more common. If you opt for shared parenting, remember that you and your spouse will be responsible for making these important decisions about your children together. It's also important to remember that choosing shared parenting does not mean that the court will not order child support. 

If sole custody is given to one parent, the other parent usually has “parenting time” (also called “visitation” in other states) — or the right to spend time with the child, including overnights.

Standard parenting time schedule

Each county’s court has created a standard parenting time schedule that shows when a child has time with each parent. You can usually find your county's standard parenting time schedule on their website.

You can ask for the standard parenting time schedule or propose your own schedule to the court. If you're proposing your own schedule, starting from the standard scheduling and making adjustments can help make sure you consider everything the court will need to define in its final orders.

If you and your spouse disagree about your proposed parenting time schedule, you will need to explain to the court why your schedule would be best for the child. For example:

  • If it's not safe for the child to have standard visitation with the other parent
  • If the standard schedule would conflict with the other parent's work schedule 
  • If you and the other parent live far away from each other

Creating a shared parenting plan

In shared parenting, both parents share legal custody, meaning both parents make key decisions together about how to raise the child. 

A child does not have to spend equal time with both parents for shared parenting. Instead, you should work together to suggest a plan that would work best for your child and your family. 

For some parents, shared parenting sounds easier than it actually ends up being. You will need to agree on important decisions related to things like healthcare and education. Make sure that both you and your spouse are ready to raise your child together.

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