Are you a grandparent, relative, ex-stepparent, or other people who have had a continuing and beneficial relationship with a child? If so, the Ohio courts and legislature recognize the meaningful impact you can have in the development of young people. There are certain safeguards codified in the Ohio Revised Code (Ohio law) that will ensure that continuing relationship as long as it remains healthy for the child.
It is not uncommon for a parent to cease some kind of continuing contact with relatives of the child, especially if that parent has had a falling out with that person or the other parent of the child. Ohio Revised Code Sections 3109.051(B), 3109.11, and 3109.12 all lay out certain situations in which non-parents can obtain court-ordered visitation with a child.
I would like to take this time to explain each statute and how it is applied so you can recognize when it is time to consider consulting one of our experienced family law attorneys to help you pursue visitation in court.
Ohio Revised Code 3109.051
Section 3109.051(B): Parenting time-companionship or visitation rights
This particular statute allows the third-party intervention of any grandparent, relative, or another person other than a parent if:
- The person files a motion with the court seeking companionship or visitation;
- The Court determines that the person has an interest in the welfare of the child; and
- The Court determines that granting companionship or visitation rights is in the child’s best interest.
It is important to note that this statute is only invoked if the parents of the child are in the process or have completed the process of ending their marriage (i.e. divorce, dissolution, annulment). The current law does not allow a third person to receive court-ordered visitation if the child’s parents are still legally married. This is also the case if a stepparent adopts the child and the estranged parent is still living. The Court may award visitation of an adopted child to a third person if the parent is no longer in the child’s life due to the parent passing away.
How To Start
According to the above statute, the first step to take is to file a motion with the court requesting that you be granted visitation. Under this statute, a closed or open domestic relations case in which the child was involved is necessary. Therefore, your family law attorney will prepare the necessary motion(s) for you to file and the motion(s) under the correct case number, which will either re-open the case or allow you to intervene in an ongoing case. Your attorney will also prepare any other paperwork required by the Court under statute or county-specific local rule.
The statute then requires you to show the court that you are interested in the child’s welfare. Your domestic relations attorney will show this to the court by filing a sworn affidavit in which you allege specific facts as true under threat of penalty of perjury. It is important to back up your words with specific evidence showing the court your positive, past relationship with the child. For instance, pictures of the child you have taken at school events, knowledge of the child’s behaviors, interests, and hobbies, and witnesses that have observed the relationship you and the child have had. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the child who will investigate the situation and report to the court whether or not the child would benefit from having court-ordered visitation with you.
The welfare of The Child
The third and final step is to convince the court that allowing the child to visit with you is in the child’s best interest. How does the court determine this, you may wonder? By evaluating the evidence, you have presented to the court against a specific set of factors listed elsewhere in the statute.
If you would like to learn more about what factors the court may weigh in your favor, please get in touch with one of our Akron family law attorneys, who will help you prepare your case. Special note is that the Ohio Supreme Court has mandated that Ohio Courts consider the parents’ wants and wishes regarding the proposed visitation. Harrold v. Collier, 107 Ohio St. 3d 44, 51 (2005). However, this is just one factor of many, and despite the parent’s wishes, the court can still award visitation if the other facts tend to show that visitation with you is in the child’s best interest.
Ohio Revised Code 3109.11
Section 3109.11: Companionship or visitation rights for parents or other relatives of deceased mother or father. This statute is very similar to the above in that it requires the person requesting visitation to file a motion in court and also requires the court to find that visitation with the relative is in the child’s best interest. This statute differs, however, in that it requires one of the child’s parents to be deceased, and you must be related to the child by consanguinity or affinity (relation by blood or marriage). The person requesting companionship cannot simply be any person showing interest in the child’s welfare, as may be the case under the previous statute.
The process to obtain visitation or companionship rights under this statute is similar to the previously discussed statute. Your attorney will file a motion in court under either an existing case number or a new case number. You will also be required to fill out the statutory Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit (UCCJEA). To be prepared to fill this out, please know every residence the child has lived during his or her life, the date of birth of the child, whether there have been any other ongoing court cases in which the child was involved, and whether there are any criminal charges brought against the child or parent in any court, and who can claim to have physical custody of the child. As previously mentioned, a relative of a deceased parent may still receive court-ordered visitation with the child even if a stepparent adopted the child through a formal adoption process.
Ohio Revised Code 3109.12
Section 3109.12: Mother unmarried: parenting time, companionship, or visitation rights. This statute focuses on allowing grandparents and other relatives of the child to receive companionship with the child if the mother and father of the child were never married. This statute differentiates between a mother’s and father’s relatives in that any parent or relative of the mother may request visitation as soon as the child is born. For relatives of the father to request companionship with the child, the parent or relative must show to the court that paternity has been established and that the purported father is the child’s father. Just because a male is listed on the child’s birth certificate as the father does NOT mean that paternity has been established. The father must establish paternity either by acknowledging paternity in an affidavit or having a DNA test administered conclusively showing that this person is the father. These procedures are usually done at your county’s child support enforcement agency office. If the father is paying child support through an administrative order, this means that paternity has been acknowledged and that the parent(s) of the father or other relative may file a request for companionship or visitation based on the support order.
Also similar to the previous two statutes, this statute requires courts to weigh a specific set of factors in determining whether visitation with the relative is in the child’s best interest. It is also important to note that the statute specifically addresses the situation concerning the marriage or remarriage of the mother. The marriage or remarriage of the mother or father does not affect the authority of the court to issue orders of visitation to a relative of the child under this statute.
This process is easy to navigate for an experienced family law attorney. Still, it can often be burdensome and overwhelming for a person without professional experience in this area. The court process can also be lengthy, consist of multiple hearings and conferences, and may even end in a trial if the sides cannot agree on non-parent visitation. The family law attorneys at the law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP want to help you with this process so the child’s best interests are protected and the child can continue to grow and enjoy companionship with a person who has been there through the good and bad times.
Contact Us If You Live in One of These Ohio Counties
If you live in Summit, Stark, Cuyahoga, Carroll, Holmes, Columbiana, Tuscarawas, Wayne, Mahoning, Lake, Portage, Medina, Ashland, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula County, please feel free to reach out to one of our Family Law attorneys who will make the best interest of your child is his number one priority.