In Ohio, in any case of divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment or child support proceeding that involves a child, the court has the ability to grant reasonable companionship or visitation rights to a grandparent. Prior to the court entertaining any motion for grandparent visitation or companionship time, one of three events needs to exist or to have occurred:
- 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.
If any of the above circumstances occur or already exists, the grandparent can then file a Motion for Visitation or Companionship time with the court.
Best Interests of the Grandchildren
During the pendency of the Motion for visitation or companionship time, the grandparent(s) will need to demonstrate that they have an interest in the welfare of their grandchild(ren) and that granting visitation/companionship rights is in the best interest of the grandchild(ren). The court may also require the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem to access the welfare of the child(ren) and the best interest of the child(ren). The Guardian Ad litem will issue a report of their findings and recommendations, which the court will take into consideration prior to making any determination on visitation/companionship rights to the grandparents.
The court may require all parties involved in the request for grandparent visitation/companionship to attend mediation in an attempt to work out an agreement. The mediation can last one session or several sessions, depending on the progress being made between the mediator and the parties. Once mediation is completed, the court will receive a mediation report from the mediator. The mediation report will set forth what, if any agreement the parties have reached, or if mediation was not productive. The court will consider the information and observations contained in the mediation report, just as it considers the report from the Guardian Ad Litem.
Lastly, prior to the court making a determination for visitation or companionship time for a grandparent, the court must consider all other relevant factors, including, but not limited to the following:
- The interaction and interrelationships of the child’s parents, siblings and other persons related to and with the person who requested companionship or visitation if that person is not a parent, sibling or relative of the person.
- The geographical location of the residence of each parent and the distance between those residences and if the person is not a parent, the geographical location of that person’s residence and the distance between that person’s residence and the child’s residence.
- The available time of the child and the parent’s, including the school schedule, employment schedules, holiday time and vacation time.
- The age of the children.
- The children’s adjustment to their home, school and community.
- If the court has interviewed the child in chambers as to visitation/companionship time, as well as the wishes and concerns of the children.
- The health and safety of the children.
- The amount of time that would be available to spend with siblings.
- The mental and physical health of all parties.
- Each parent’s willingness to reschedule missed visitation/companionship time.
- Whether the person requesting visitation/companionship time has ever been confiscated of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being abused or neglected.
- Whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence outside this state.
- The wishes and concerns of the children’s parents, as expressed by them to the court.
- Any other factor in the best interest of the child.
In the event a grandparent does not meet any of the criteria to proceed with filing a Motion for Visitation or Companionship Time, there is only one other option left for the grandparent’s to proceed with their request for visitation or companionship time, and that would be that the grandparent would need to first prove to the court, that both parents of the grandchildren are unfit.
A grandparent’s involvement with their grandchildren provides their grandchildren with additional love, support, a sense of security and stability. Obtaining grandparents rights for visitation and companionship is a drastic measure that grandparent’s undertake to remain involved with their grandchildren.
In the event you require more information on grandparent’s rights, you are encouraged to contact Kirkland & Sommers Co. LPA to discuss your rights. A free consultation is just a phone call away. Please contact us at (937) 576-8948 or (513) 563-3166.