Normally, when discussing child custody and visitation rights, one immediately thinks of the rights involving the biological parents. Child custody rights, however, can involve various other parties, including foster parents, stepparents, siblings, grandparents, extended family, and government agencies. Depending on the circumstances, any one of these parties may have certain child custody rights and may play a significant role in a child custody dispute. For this reason, it is helpful to understand the roles and rights that parties other than parents have in the child custody process.
Child Custody Rights Of Grandparents
For one reason or another, grandparents often play a prominent role in child custody or visitation disputes. Under Ohio law, a parent’s right to raise a child is a basic, essential civil right. This right, however, may be taken away if the court finds that the parents are unsuitable and the court may award custody to a nonparent, such as a grandparent.
The Ohio Supreme Court has stated that a juvenile court may not award custody to a nonparent “without first determining that a preponderance of the evidence shows that the parent abandoned the child; contractually relinquished custody of the child; that the parent has become totally incapable of supporting or caring for the child; or that an award of custody to the parent would be detrimental to the child.” Depending on the circumstances, this may be difficult for a grandparent to prove.
Instead of petitioning the court for custody, another way that a grandparent may obtain certain custody rights is by having one or both the parents sign a power of attorney form. A power of attorney will provide a grandparent with rights in the child’s care, physical custody and control, including the right to make educational decisions and the right to arrange for routine and emergency medical, dental, and psychological treatment.
Child Visitation Rights of Grandparents
Under Ohio law, grandparents may be awarded visitation rights in a divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment, or child support proceeding, if the court determines that (1) the grandparent has an interest in the welfare of the child; and (2) granting visitation rights is in the best interest of the child. In addition, a grandparent may be awarded visitation rights when the mother was unmarried and she had the child or when a parent of the child is deceased.
A court must consider various factors when establishing a visitation scheduled, including but not limited to:
- The child’s prior interactions with the grandparent;
- The geographical location of the child and grandparent;
- The child’s and the parents’ available time and schedule;
- The child’s age;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The health and safety of the child;
- The amount of time that will be available for the child to spend with siblings; and
- The mental and physical health of all parties.
An experienced Ohio family law attorney can help grandparents through the process of obtaining visitation rights for their grandchildren.
Contact A Cleveland Family Law Attorney
If you have questions regarding a grandparent’s child custody or visitation rights, contact Laubacher & Co.’s experienced Cleveland family law attorneys today. Our attorneys have helped numerous grandparents obtain custody and visitation rights for their grandchildren. Contact our family law attorneys today for a free initial consultation.