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Ohio Dependent Child Laws

Medina County law firm for dependent child hearings

Medina County Lawyers for Dependent Child Cases

Children in Ohio who are not being properly cared for or supervised by their parents might become the subjects of a dependency proceeding under Ohio Revised Code section 2151.04. All states have laws authorizing child welfare agencies and the courts to intervene when a child is abused or neglected. Ohio includes a third category known as dependent children who might become the focus of protective measures by the state.

Definition of a Dependent Child in Ohio

Ohio Revised Code section 2151.04 defines a dependent child as someone who falls into one of the following categories:

  • The child is homeless, destitute, or lacking adequate parental care without fault of the parents, guardian, or custodian.
  • The parents, guardian, or custodian cannot provide adequate parental care because of their mental or physical condition.
  • The child lives under such conditions or in an environment that warrants intervention by the state as the child's guardian acting in the best interests of the child.

When a court makes a finding of abuse, neglect, or dependency concerning acts by a parent, guardian, or other member of a household against a child in that household, the law authorizes the state to seek a dependency adjudication for other children in the household. In order to support a dependent child adjudication based on acts committed against another child, a court must determine that the findings pertaining to a child show a danger to other children residing in the household or siblings of the adjudicated child.

The focus of a dependent child adjudication is on the child and the conditions under which the child is living. Courts are limited in a dependent child proceeding to determining if a child is receiving proper care under the circumstances in which the child is living.

Procedures in Dependent Child Cases

When an allegation is made of a suspected dependent child, the case is investigated by Medina County Job and Family Services Agency. If the investigation concludes that sufficient evidence exists to support the allegation, the case is assigned to an assistant prosecutor who must determine if the evidence warrants the filing of a complaint in the Juvenile Division of the Medina County Court of Common Pleas.

If the court agrees after hearing the evidence that an adjudication of dependency is appropriate, it will issue a finding and schedule the case for a dispositional hearing to decide the future custody status of the dependent child. There are several options available to a court at the time of disposition.

Disposition Orders in Dependent Child Cases

Following an adjudication of dependency of a child, section 2151.353 of the Ohio Revised Code allows a court to take such measures as it determines to be in the best interest of the child including:

  • Placing the child under protective supervision.
  • Awarding temporary custody to a public or private child welfare agency, to a parent or relative of the child, or to a probation officer for foster care placement, or committing the child to any home approved by the court.
  • Awarding legal custody of the child to a parent or any other person who requests custody in a motion filed before the dispositional hearing.
  • Awarding permanent custody to a public child welfare agency or to a private placement agency if the child cannot be placed with a parent within a reasonable time following the dispositional hearing.

A court must issue a written opinion in which it states its findings and conclusions of law upon which its order of disposition is based. Such findings are significant in cases in which the court decides that the best interests of the child require placement in a planned permanent living arrangement. Under such circumstances, ORC section 2151.353(5) requires proof by clear and convincing evidence at the dispositional hearing that at least one of the following exists:

  • The child requires residential or institutional care due to a physical, mental, or psychological need and is unable to function in a family setting;
  • The child has a positive and significant relationship with a parent or relative, making adoption not in the child's best interest, but the parents of the child suffer from physical, mental, or psychological problems and cannot care for the child; or
  • The child is at least 16 years of age and has been counseled on permanent placement options but refuses such placement and is currently in a program preparing for independent living.

Consult a Medina Family Lawyer

Dependent child proceedings in Ohio can have a significant impact on the rights of a child who is the subject of them and on parents who can lose all or some of their parental rights. A consultation with a Medina family lawyer can help individuals to understand the nature of the proceedings and the effect they might have on their rights. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us at 330-725-4114. We serve clients throughout Medina County, Summit County and Wayne County, Ohio.

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