With 41% of first marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, it’s no wonder that grandparents have been granted rights that have been codified into Ohio law. Like so many other areas of the law, those rights will depend on certain factors, but given the right set of circumstances, grandparents do have some protections available to ensure they can continue their relationship with their grandchildren.
There are three times when grandparents’ rights may apply:
- During, or after, a divorce proceeding;
- If the child’s parent is deceased: or
- The child’s mother was unmarried when the child was born.
All of the below must be true:
All of these three sentences must be true for a grandparent to be granted companionship or visitation rights:
- The grandparent files a motion with the court seeking companionship or visitation rights;
- The court determines that the grandparent has an interest in the welfare of the child; and
- The court determines that the granting of the companionship or visitation rights is in the best interest of the child.
The most common scenario when grandparent rights are ordered is when a grandparent already has an established relationship with a grandchild and the parents cut off their ability to see the grandchild without a good reason. For example, it isn’t uncommon for parents to cut off the grandparent’s contact with the grandchild after the parents and grandparents have been in an argument.
It is important to keep in mind that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions about their child; these rights include who that child sees and with whom they have a relationship. For that reason, it can take a lot for a court to grant grandparent visitation, even though Ohio is fairly progressive as far as grandparent visitation laws go.
The amount of grandparent visitation courts will order varies greatly depending on the circumstances of each case and the court that is deciding the case. Because grandparent visitation is considered secondary to the rights of parents, it is generally unrealistic to expect significant court ordered grandparent visitation. An example of what we typically see is 6 or 8 hours a month; more progressive orders may include an overnight visit.
What is meant by “the child’s best interest”?
It is presumed that it is in the child’s best interest to continue a relationship with their grandparents. The court considers many factors when reviewing a request for grandparent visitation rights to determine if it would be in the best interest of the child to grant the motion. Some, but not all of those factors include:
(1) Prior interaction and interrelationships of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other relatives, and with the person who requested companionship or visitation if that person is not a parent, sibling, or relative of the child;
(2) The geographical location and distance between the grandparents’ residence and the child’s residence;
(3) The child’s and parents’ available time, including, but not limited to, each parent’s work schedule, the child’s school schedule, and the child’s and the parents’ holiday and vacation schedule;
(4) The age of the child;
(5) The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
(6) The wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court;
(7) The health and safety of the child;
(8) The amount of time that will be available for the child to spend with siblings;
(9) The mental and physical health of all parties;
(10) The grandparents’ willingness to reschedule missed visitation;
(11) Whether the grandparent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
(12) In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, the wishes and concerns of the child’s parents, as expressed by them to the court;
(13) Any other factor in the best interest of the child.
The bottom line…
There are various reasons why your child may not be exercising their parenting rights. Whether they are deceased, deployed, or otherwise unable to see their children, as a grandparent you may have the right to file a motion for visitation. However, as you can tell, there are many factors in play that could either work in your favor or disqualify you from having your motion granted. You will need to enlist the help of an experienced family law attorney to navigate this process. The lawyers at Kirkland & Sommers specialize in family law and can advise you if you will likely meet the court’s criteria and file the motion for you.
Schedule a free consultation
If you are struggling to see your grandchildren and are curious about what rights you have, schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney at Kirkland & Sommers. We understand and appreciate how special the grandparent/grandchild relationship is, and we know how much love and support grandparents have to give. Let us help you the way we’ve helped other grandparents in the Dayton and West Chester area keep their families together!