Juvenile Court has jurisdiction regarding the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities of all children born out of wedlock. Upon birth, the Mother is presumed to be legal custodian of the child until a court of law determines otherwise. Unless the Mother permits contact, biological fathers do not have any enforceable rights to his children without a court order. However, if either parent petitions the Court for an order of custody and/or parenting time, both parents are considered to be on equal footing, with no preference or advantage to Mother. The Court utilizes statutory factors under a “best interest” standard when making the custody and/or parenting time determination. The Court can also establish a child support obligation and rules on objections to administrative recommendations from Child Support Enforcement Agencies for unwed parents.
Non-parents may also utilize Juvenile Court to petition for legal custody of a child. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles and even non-relatives. The Court must first determine the parents are “unfit” and unable to properly parent their children. The Court will then utilize the “best interest” standard to make a determination if custody should be placed with a non-parent.
Juvenile Court also has exclusive jurisdiction to determine if a child is abused, neglected or dependent. Although private filings are permissible, most abuse, neglect, and dependency complaints are filed by Children Services agencies. If a complaint is filed regarding a child, the court has the authority to make emergency orders to remove children from his or her parents and place the child in the temporary custody of a relative or in foster care. It is imperative parents request or seek legal representation in an abuse, neglect and dependency case to protect their rights regarding their children. Although cooperation with any Children Service Agency is generally advised, each and every case is different and may not be in your best interest to do so.
Juvenile Court also hears adult misdemeanor criminal cases when minor children are victims. Such charges are contributing to the delinquency/unruliness of a minor, child endangering and domestic violence. As contributing to the delinquency/unruliness of a minor is a non-expungeable office in the State of Ohio, representation for these charges is highly recommended.