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When the parents of a child are or were married, the domestic relations court handles child custody
matters. But when the parents are not and were never married, the juvenile court has jurisdiction over
child custody. In addition, the juvenile court handles cases involving paternity, grandparent visitation,
abused and neglected children, and motions for a custody to a non-parent. Because the juvenile court is
a “catch-all” for child custody cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the domestic relations
court, juvenile custody cases can be much more diverse.
The most common type of case involves child custody disputes between the parents of a child. In Ohio,
the law presumes that an unmarried mother has sole custody of the child until a court issues orders
granting the father custody, shared parenting, or visitation. This is different than domestic relations
custody cases which does not give either parent superior legal rights prior to the inception of a case.
However, when a custody case begins and there have been no prior orders regarding the child, the
juvenile court is to treat it as an initial custody determination and does not favor either party.
Another unique aspect of a juvenile custody case is the determination of paternity. Where the domestic
relations court presumes the husband is the biological father of a child born during the marriage, the
juvenile court must establish paternity before proceeding. This can be done as a presumption if the
father signed an acknowledgement of paternity at the time of birth, it can be acknowledged by both
parties, or the court will order the parties to submit to genetic testing.
Once jurisdiction and paternity have been established, a custody matter proceeds very similarly to a
child custody matter heard by the domestic relations court. The juvenile court will determine which
parent should have custody or whether shared parenting is appropriate, what parenting schedule is
appropriate, as well as matters of child support and health care coverage.
Once the party seeking to enforce the prenuptial agreement has met their burden that full disclosure
has been made, the burden shifts to the party challenging the validity of the agreement to demonstrate
that the terms of the agreement are overreaching or fraudulent. Cases that involve prenuptial
agreements often turn on the validity of the agreement, subjecting the agreement to detailed
examination by the court. For this reason, the decision to enter into a prenuptial agreement should not
be taken lightly and it is imperative that the terms of the agreement and intent of the parties is clear
Do you have any juvenile law questions?
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