Shared custody may be an important option for same-sex couples living in Ohio who are not married. Maria can help gay and lesbian co-parents obtain a court order from the Juvenile Court in the county in which they reside. In that court order, the judge awards legal custody to both same-sex parents, meaning that both parents share the legal responsibility of caring and providing for their children until the children turn 18 or graduate from high school.
Shared custody gives the non-biological/non-adoptive parent many legal rights to the children that he/she would not otherwise have. The non-biological/non-adoptive parent has the ability to consent to medical treatment for the children, have access to the children’s school and medical records, work with the children’s daycare and pre-school providers, actively participate in their children’s education, sign school paperwork, etc.
Shared custody also protects the children. The children now have two adults who are legally obligated to provide for them. In addition, if something happens to their biological/adoptive parent, the children will not be subjected to a legal battle over guardianship because their non-biological/non-adoptive parent already has legal custody of them.
Knowing that the children will be protected in the event of an emergency gives both parents and their children an enormous sense of comfort and relief. If the parents ever marry, they can pursue a step-parent adoption in Probate Court six months after the date of their marriage.