Subscribe to the RSS Feed

What is a “Change of Circumstances” in Ohio Custody Cases?

custody lawyer

Virginia Cornwell is an Ohio State Bar Association Certified Family Relations Specialist and a Columbus Ohio Family Lawyer.  This article is the first in a series of articles about what is a change of circumstances according to Ohio custody, visitation and shared parenting law.

Ohio Revised Code 3109.04 (E)(1)(a) requires:

LAW COURTS 2The court shall not modify a prior decree allocating parental rights and responsibilities for the care of children unless it finds, based on facts that have arisen since the prior decree or that were unknown to the court at the time of the prior decree, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child, the child’s residential parent, or either of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree, and that the modification is necessary to serve the best interest of the child. In applying these standards, the court shall retain the residential parent designated by the prior decree or the prior shared parenting decree, unless a modification is in the best interest of the child and one of the following applies:
(i) The residential parent agrees to a change in the residential parent or both parents under a shared parenting decree agree to a change in the designation of residential parent.
(ii) The child, with the consent of the residential parent or of both parents under a shared parenting decree, has been integrated into the family of the person seeking to become the residential parent.
(iii) The harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantages of the change of environment to the child.

CALL NOW  at (614) 225-9316 or contact us by e-mail.

CHANGE CUSTODYOhio law has several hurdles for a parent that wants to change custody, and the burden of proof is on the parent who wants the change.  The first step of these complicated requirements is generally that there must have been a change or circumstances based on facts that did not exist at the time of last custody order.  For the most part, the Ohio Revised Code is silent about what is or is not a “change of circumstances”, and the answer is found in case law. Sounds simple, right?  Nope.  Case law varies among the appellate districts.  The best you can do is look at the case law, and which trends last over time.  The bottom line is that unless a court is directly violating a case precedent that has authority over that court, the court has a LOT of latitude to decide whether or not there has been a change in circumstances.

CALL NOW  at (614) 225-9316 or contact us by e-mail.

Military Parents and Change of Circumstances

One exception to this is found in Ohio Revised Code 3109.051 (click here on or after 1/1/14)  which says: The court shall not find past, present, or possible future active military service in the uniformed services to constitute a change in circumstances justifying modification of a prior decree.  For more information about Ohio active military members being deployed and custody, click this link to read our article about this subject.

CALL NOW  at (614) 225-9316 or contact us by e-mail.

So What is a Change of Circumstances?

CHANGE HOPEWhat about non-military parents?  For those parents, what constitutes a change of circumstances is mostly a matter of case law.  There are a few issues that have gone to the supreme court of ohio, and those rulings apply to the whole state, but there are other issues that vary from one appellate district to another.

CALL NOW  at (614) 225-9316 or contact us by e-mail.

Moving and Change of Circumstances

custody attorneyIn Masters v. Masters, 69 Ohio St.3d 83  the Supreme Court of Ohio found that a trial court abuses its discretion when it modifies custody based solely upon evidence that the residential parent intends to leave the State of Ohio with the child.  Supreme Court said it was unconscionable for a trial court to treat a parent’s desire to leave the state as a substantial change in circumstances.  However, in that case, the mother had not actually left the state, had only expressed an intention to leave.  A very different result may occur if the parent has already left.  When a parent moves, a child changes schools, loses peers, changes doctors and sometimes loses frequent access to relatives.  These are factors a court would consider.  Courts are not big fans of parents moving the child far away from the other parent.  Put simply – it’s complicated.

For more information, see our series of articles on Change of Circumstances, or give our office a call for a consultation.

CALL NOW  at (614) 225-9316 or contact us by e-mail.

DISCLAIMER – Read it, it’s important!


  1. P says

    so what exactly does the court consider a change of circumstance with the residential home

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.