LEGAL PRACTICE IN THE JUVENILE COURT
Legal practice in the Juvenile Court is restricted by law to attorneys who are licensed by the Supreme Court of Ohio. If an individual wishes to handle his or her own case, he or she may do so; however, they may not represent others. Due to the complexity of the law and the desire to avoid costly errors, most individuals who have filings before the Court are represented by an attorney. Deputy clerks are prevented by law from practicing law and, therefore, are not permitted to give advice.
An unmarried female who gives birth to a child is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a Court of competent jurisdiction issues an order designating another person as the residential parent and legal custodian.
Sandusky County Juvenile Court has jurisdiction to make an initial determination in a child custody/visitation proceedings if:
If a dispute arises between unmarried parents as to who shall have custody of the child, a Complaint and UCCJEA Affidavit along with a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate or verification of establishment of paternity, may be filed in Sandusky County Juvenile Court. The Court encourages all parties to try to come to an agreement over the disputed matters prior to filing a Complaint with the Court. The “best interest” of the child will prevail in all custody disputes when a Complaint is filed with the Court. The Judge/Magistrate may order that a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed to represent the child in these matters.
Sandusky County Juvenile Court will determine visitation which is also known as parenting time along with modifications of visiting schedules when:
It is important to remember that your obligation to pay child support isn’t determined by the amount of visitation you may or may not have with your child. Non-support of a child is a criminal offense.
It is the practice of Sandusky County Juvenile Court to screen the custody and visitation complaints and initially send these matters to Mediation first. If both parents are in agreement of custody/visitation matters upon filing of a Complaint or Motion, the Court will automatically refer you to Mediation.
Mediation is a process in which a trained Mediator assists with communication and negotiation between parties to help them potentially reach a voluntary agreement regarding their dispute, without the expense and delay of a trial. The Mediator is a neutral third party and provides a forum that allows parties to discuss their disputes and any other issues that may concern them, in an informal setting, where all of the technical Court rules do not apply. Mediation allows parties to have more control of the outcome of the dispute. If you can settle your dispute without going to trial, then you eliminate the risk of completely losing your case or getting a judgment that is less acceptable than a negotiated agreement.
Sandusky County Juvenile Court has developed local forms to assist in CUSTODY/VISITATION filings as follows:
HOW DO I FILE FOR CUSTODY OR VISITATION OF MY CHILD?
If Sandusky County Juvenile Court has jurisdiction, you may initiate an action with the Court by filing a Complaint and UCCJEA Affidavit.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FILE A COMPLAINT FOR CUSTODY OR VISITATION?
Costs for filing a Complaint is determined on a per child basis, SEARCH HERE for the cost. The costs are due at the time of filing.
HOW DO I CHANGE MY ADDRESS?
It is very important to notify the Court every time you move. In order to change your address, file the Change of Address form with the Court.
HOW DO I MODIFY MY CURRENT CUSTODY OR VISITATION ORDER?
If there is a prior order that was issued by Sandusky County Juvenile Court and your case is closed, you can re-open your case by filing a Motion and UCCJEA Affidavit.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FILE A MOTION TO RE-OPEN MY CASE?
Costs for filing a Motion is determined on a per child basis, SEARCH HERE for the costs. The costs are due at the time of filing.
HOW DO I FILE FOR CONTEMPT AGAINST SOMEONE WHO ISN’T FOLLOWING A COURT ORDER?
If you have a prior Order issued by Sandusky County Juvenile Court and would like to ask the Court’s assistance in enforcement of the Order, you may file a Motion for Contempt. You must attach a copy of the Order that is being violated to the Motion for Contempt when it is filed.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FILE A MOTION FOR CONTEMPT?
SEARCH HERE for the costs. The costs are due at the time of filing.
MY SON OR DAUGHTER IS UNABLE TO CARE FOR MY GRANDCHILD. HOW DO I OBTAIN DOCUMENTATION GIVING ME THE RIGHT TO MEDICALLY TREAT AND/OR ENROLL MY GRANDCHILD IN SCHOOL?
You may want to consider the following based upon your circumstance:
HOW CAN I GET A COURT APPOINTED ATTORNEY?
If you are facing charges that could result in punishment by jail time, you can request a Court Appointed Attorney by filing a Financial Disclosure Form with the Sandusky County Juvenile Court in person, by mail (100 N. Park Ave, Fremont, OH 43420), or by fax (419-334-6210). The Judge or Magistrate reviews each application and makes a determination of eligibility based on State of Ohio guidelines. If a party qualifies for a Court Appointed Attorney, they will be notified by mail of the Attorney’s name and contact information.
If you are a party in a “private” custody case, you are not eligible to apply for a Court Appointed Attorney.
HOW AND UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES MAY A CHILD CHOOSE WHICH PARENT WILL HAVE CUSTODY?
As always with regard to children, the Court must determine what is in the child’s best interest. The child’s living arrangement preference is only one of many factors that may be considered by the Court in determining what is in the child’s best interest. The Court upon its own Motion may conduct an “in-chambers” interview. The interview is not done in open court, but rather, in the Judge’s or Magistrate’s chambers. The child meets with the Judge or Magistrate and other court personnel as appropriate, but the child’s parents are not present at the meeting. The Court, in its discretion, may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the child.
WHAT, IF ANY, GUIDELINES ARE FOLLOWED DURING AN INTERVIEW WITH A CHILD “IN CHAMBERS”?
The Judge or Magistrate will first determine the reasoning ability of the child. If the Court determines the child does not have sufficient reasoning ability, then the child will not be asked his or her wishes with regard to custody. If the Court decides the child does have sufficient reasoning ability, the Court must then decide if there are any special circumstances that would suggest the child’s wishes should not be considered. Assuming the child has sufficient reasoning ability and there are no special circumstances, the Court will then ask the child about his or her own wishes regarding custody.
DOES THE COURT ALWAYS FOLLOW THE CHILD’S WISHES?
Not necessarily. The Court still must determine whether it is in that child’s best interest for custody to be granted to the parent chosen. The Court also must consider many other factors to determine what is in the child’s best interest. The wishes of an older, more mature child are often weighed very heavily unless there is a negative reason why the child prefers one parent over the other (e.g., lax rules or supervision, substance abuse issues, etc.).