Grandparents must file with the court (usually the Court of Common Pleas) to get grandparents visitation rights. In three instances, grandparent’s legal rights are statutorily protected in Ohio:
- When married parents terminate their marriage or separate.
- When a parent of the child is deceased.
- When a child is born to an unmarried woman.
(See Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3109.051, 3109.11, and 3109.12.)
When married parents separate, terminate, or annul their marriage, or when there is a child support proceeding, a court can grant reasonable grandparents visitation rights to the grandparents in the proceeding and establish the times for visits. Such visitation is principally granted when contact is limited. Grandparents’ rights only exist at the discretion of the court and can be revoked at any time.
Grandparents can visit their grandchildren only during court-approved visitation. The motion for visitation rights may be filed while a proceeding is pending or after a decree or final order is issued. Before grandparents’ visitation rights are granted, the court will determine whether the grandparent has an interest in the child’s welfare and will consider several factors to determine if the visitation is in the child’s best interest.
When the parent of a child dies, the parent of the deceased parent can file a complaint about the grandparent’s visitation rights in the Court of Common Pleas in the county in which the child resides. If the child’s mother was unmarried when the child was born, the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the child resides might grant grandparents visitation rights to the maternal grandparents. The court may grant visitation rights to the paternal grandparents if the father’s acknowledgment of parentage is final or if he is found to be the child’s father in a parentage action.
Grandparents may also file a complaint about companionship in juvenile court when the grandchild is illegitimate, the child’s parent is deceased, and the grandparent is having difficulty visiting the child.
Grandparents seeking visitation rights should be prepared for the testimony they will need to provide in court. There may be questions about their physical or emotional health or the physical or emotional well-being of the grandchild. The grandparents’ availability and the grandchild’s age may also be subjects of discussion, and the parents or grandchildren themselves may be asked to testify.
A grandparent has the right to seek judicial enforcement of a visitation order. If a parent interferes with a grandparent’s visitation rights, the court can hold the parent in contempt.
It is also possible to apply to the court for “companionship rights”—one does not have to be a child’s relative. The person applying for such rights in Ohio must be “related to the child by consanguinity (blood) or affinity.” A motion must be filed with the court, and the court must determine whether the latter person is interested in the child’s welfare and that the visitation is in the child’s best interests.
Many complex issues can develop in seeking a grandparent’s visitation rights. You will likely need the assistance of an Akron family law attorney for grandparents’ rights to help you be certain someone is representing your interests.
Slater & Zurz LLP has good family law attorneys who are very familiar with grandparents’ rights in Ohio and will do everything possible to make sure you can visit your grandchild or grandchildren despite the direction their parents’ lives have taken.
If you have additional questions about your case, please visit the grandparent’s rights FAQ page or call us.