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Can I ever modify a child custody order?

In Ohio, child custody arrangements are not necessarily set in stone. In fact, they can often be modified or changed as needed. For instance, if there is a shared-parenting decree and both parents agree as to a specific modification, a court will typically approve the change unless it is not in the child's best interests.

However, if the parents cannot agree on a proposed custody modification, the court will often have to step in and resolve the dispute for them. Generally, under Ohio law, the party seeking the modification will have to show that there has been a "change of circumstances" since custody was first determined, and that this change is "substantiated, continuing and [will have] a materially adverse effect upon a child."

For instance, in the past, Ohio courts have determined that the following circumstances may constitute a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant a custody modification:

  • The child is being sexually abused
  • The child is being physically abused
  • The custodial/residential parent's lifestyle is putting the child at risk of harm, including instances of frequent changes of residence
  • The custodial/residential parent is attempting to move a great distance from the non-residential parent and wants to take the child with
  • The custodial/residential parent is refusing visitation by the non-residential parent

Basically, a change in circumstances may exist in any situation in which your child's welfare is substantially at risk given the current custody arrangement. However, even if you can prove a sufficient change in circumstances, you must still be able to show that the requested custody change is in your child's best interest before the court will grant the modification.

In addition, it is important to note that Ohio law creates a strong presumption in favor of keeping the current custodial/residential parent the same, unless a modification is in the best interest of the child and:

  • The benefits of the custody modification to the child outweigh the potential harm;
  • The custodial/residential parent agrees to the modification; or
  • The child has already integrated into the family/home of the non-residential parent, and this was done with the custodial/residential parent's consent

One thing to always keep in mind, though, is that the information above barely scratches the surface of what you may need to know should you become involved in a child custody modification dispute. Quite simply, every situation is different, which is why you should always contact an experienced family law attorney should you have any questions or concerns.

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