Although the court can consider nonresidency in determining the best interests of the child, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3109.04(F)(1)(j), nonresidency alone cannot deprive a parent of custody.
The mother left the marital residence with the child and filed a complaint for divorce. Both parties filed motions for temporary parenting rights and support. While the custody determination was pending and with the father's knowledge, the mother moved with the child to another state. Following a hearing 18 months after the parties separated, the trial court removed custody from the mother and allocated full parental rights to the father. The mother appealed.
Did the trial court abuse its discretion in designating the father the residential parent and legal guardian of the parties' minor child?
Yes. The trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law manifestly placed a disproportionate emphasis on the mother and her "priorities" and not enough on the best interest of the child.
The court reversed found that many of the concerns expressed by the trial court in its findings of fact involved the mother's relationship with a new companion and the lifestyle choices she had made concerning her career. The court held that the trial court abused its discretion by improperly focusing on a "reproval of the mother" standard, instead of whether the mother's conduct had had a direct adverse impact on the child.