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Best Interest Factors

When allocating any parental rights and responsibilities, the court is required to consider the statutory “best interest” factors.

While you know what is in your children’s “best interest” the courts have a very specific definition of what that phrase means and it usually doesn’t match up 100% with what most mother’s think it means. This disconnect between the vernacular “best interest” and the statutory “best interest” factors is similar to a common misconception about Guardian ad Litems. Guardian ad Litems are not appointed to represent your children, they are appointed to represent what the statute determines is in the children’s statutory “best interest.”

When a court writes its decision or when a Guardian ad Litem writes a report and recommendation, the facts and law they rely on will be organized pursuant to the best interest factors.

The factors the court must consider are codified at Ohio Revised Code § 3109.04(F)(1) and are as follows:

  • (a) The wishes of the child’s parents regarding the child’s care;
  • (b) If the court has interviewed the child in chambers pursuant to division (B) of this section regarding the child’s wishes and concerns as to the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities concerning the child, the wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court;
  • (c) The child’s interaction and interrelationship with the child’s parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
  • (d) The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
  • (e) The mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation;
  • (f) The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights;
  • (g) Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments, including all arrearages, that are required of that parent pursuant to a child support order under which that parent is an obligor;
  • (h) Whether either parent or any member of the household of either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or a neglected child; whether either parent, in a case in which a child has been adjudicated an abused child or a neglected child, previously has been determined to be the perpetrator of the abusive or neglectful act that is the basis of an adjudication; whether either parent or any member of the household of either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of section 2919.25 of the Revised Code or a sexually oriented offense involving a victim who at the time of the commission of the offense was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding; whether either parent or any member of the household of either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any offense involving a victim who at the time of the commission of the offense was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding and caused physical harm to the victim in the commission of the offense; and whether there is reason to believe that either parent has acted in a manner resulting in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
  • (i) Whether the residential parent or one of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court;
  • (j) Whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside this state.

When providing the court and the Guardian ad Litem with information, it is important to keep the best interest factors in mind and only provide what is useful. Distinguishing what you feel as a parent is in your children’s “best interest” and what actually falls into Ohio’s “best interest” factor test can be difficult and requires the assistance of a qualified Child Custody Attorney.