When thinking of child visitation disputes, one primarily thinks of these disputes as affecting only the biological parents. In reality, however, child visitation disputes can involve numerous different parties, including grandparents, foster parents, siblings, or other relatives. Each party involved has a certain interest in protecting the welfare of the child and obtaining visitation rights. Grandparents are often embattled in these disputes and frequently find themselves looking for some type of legal recourse to obtain visitation rights to their grandchildren.
What Child Visitation Rights do Grandparents Have?
Historically, grandparents throughout the country have had no legal right to visit their grandchild. Instead, the parents of the child retained sole authority to determine whether grandparents were permitted to visit their grandchild. Over time, however, this view has shifted and more rights have been given to grandparents. By statute, Ohio has granted certain visitation rights to grandparents, as well as other interested parties.
Under Ohio’s statute, grandparents have companionship or visitation rights in three limited circumstances:
- when married parents terminate their marriage or separate;
- when a parent of a child is deceased; and
- when the child is born to an unmarried woman.
In each of the preceding circumstances, a grandparent must file a complaint or motion for visitation rights in the court of common pleas of the county in which the child resides. If a grandparent is seeking visitation rights when the married parents terminate their marriage then the court must determine that the grandparent has an interest in the welfare of the child. After making this determination, the court must find that the granting of the companionship or visitation rights is in the best interest of the child. The court shall consider the following factors in determining the best interest of the child:
- The child’s and parents’ available time;
- The age of the child;
- 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.
These are just a few of the factors a court will consider. If a grandparent files a request for visitation rights when a parent dies or when a child is born to an unmarried woman, the court must first also find that the granting of the companionship or visitation rights is in the best interest of the minor child. When the child is born to an unmarried woman, a court may grant visitation rights to the maternal grandparents. The paternal grandparents may also seek visitation rights. But first, the father of the child must acknowledge the child and the acknowledgment must be final. Or, in a parentage action, the individual must be found to be the father’s child.
Contact a Cleveland Family Law Attorney
If you have questions regarding grandparents’ 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.