Today, approximately 2.7 million grandchildren in the U.S. live with their grandparents. The relationship between parents and grandparents and their grandchildren in this country is a diverse one. Some grandparents have been told they are not permitted to see their grandchildren. The latter group of grandchildren is generally in the custody of one of their parents (“the custodial parent”).
Why is this happening?
It used to be unusual to hear about splintered families. Children being kept from their grandparents is a common challenge for the family at every socioeconomic level (according to AARP.org).
There are many reasons why grandparents may not be allowed to visit their grandchildren. These generally revolve around three issues—divorce, death, and “intergenerational fighting.” An example of the latter could be when a grandparent speaks ill of other family members, and the words spoken lead to disagreement between the generations.
Other major family events that may help complicate the grandchild-grandparent relationship, according to experts on the subject, include: the custodial parent physically moving away from the grandparents, monetary transactions between the generations creating conflict, and when one of the partners in the parental relationship dies.
For example, in the monetary area, parents may withhold contact with the grandchildren until grandparents reduce the pressure to repay loans that are due to the grandparents. This sounds like a hard-hearted, selfish thing, but it can be difficult to ascertain what is going on in a family.
How it affects the grandchildren
In response to being kept from their grandchildren, grandparents say, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), that they feel sad and helpless. Some are angry about being kept away from their grandchildren.
It is possible the grandparent’s son or daughter is trying to keep them from the grandchildren and, in some cases, parent or parents have good reason to do so.
Many grandparents believe there is nothing that can be done to enable them to visit their grandchildren. Sometimes the grandparents have had contact or even “raised” a grandchild for years before a divorce or rift occurs in the grandparent-parent-grandchild relationship. This makes it especially difficult for all involved.
The rights of grandparents may depend on where the grandparents reside
The laws on grandparent rights differ in each state. AARP offers information about “grandparent rights” for all 50 states (AARP.org). The words “grandparent rights” are not used in every state because statutorily, they are not “rights.” One file for visitation or companionship rights in Ohio.
The good news is the laws concerning grandparents and grandchildren are stronger in Ohio than in many other states, and the word “grandparent rights” is part of the statutory language. This does not mean if a grandparent files for visitation or companionship rights in Ohio, they will automatically be granted them. There are many factors the court considers in its decision which we will discuss very soon.
Ohio grandparent rights for visitation are permitted by statute in three situations.
When the parent(s) of the child are married and decide to end the marriage, or the parents decide to separate;
When one of the parents is deceased; and,
When the child is born to an unmarried woman.
The “best interests” of the child
This is the governing principle of a court decision concerning grandparent rights or any legal decision about a minor in Ohio.
When you file a complaint or motion for grandparents’ rights, the court may also look at what you’ve done to become part of your grandchild’s life—if you telephoned, visited, or spent time with your grandchildren (unless you were legally prevented from doing so). The court may ask, did you help your grandchild with school? Does your grandchild enjoy spending time with you? Does your grandchild seem happy to be with you?
The wishes of the parent(s) are one of the factors to which the court must give special weight in a visitation or custody decision in Ohio, (Ohio Revised Code (ORC) (3109.051 (A)) “the court shall consider all of the following factors. . .”
- The prior interaction and interrelationships of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, and with the person who requested companionship or visitation if that person is not a parent, sibling, or relative of the child;
- The geographical location of the grandparents’ residence and the distance between it and the child’s residence;
- The child’s available time, including, but not limited to, each parent’s employment schedule, the child’s school schedule, and the child’s and the parents’ holiday and vacation schedule;
- The age of the child;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- If the court has interviewed the child in chambers as to other parenting time or visitation matters, the wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court. (See (C) of ORC section 3109.051) for further information on this.)
- The health and safety of the child;
- The amount of time that will be available for the child to spend with siblings;
- The mental and physical health of all parties concerned;
- The willingness of the grandparent to reschedule missed visitation(s);
- Any conviction of the grandparent or guilty plea by the grandparent involving a crime of child abuse or child neglect;
- Whether either parent has established a residence or is planning to establish a residence outside this state; (If your grandchild is removed from the jurisdiction, any request for grandparent visitation rights must be made in the county where the child lives. The only exception would be if a case has already been initiated in another county. If so, that county would retain jurisdiction.
- Any other factor in the best interest of the child.
Legal options to achieve access in Ohio:
Obtaining a Visitation Order by filing a Complaint or Motion for Custody with the court in your jurisdiction. The court will set a hearing and hear testimony. (Keep in mind that Visitation and Custody are very different issues in family law cases.)
Obtaining Custody. Once again, determined by the circumstances and very different from Visitation alone.
Appealing a visitation or custody request is turned down by the court.
Mediate an agreement between yourself and the child’s custodial parent with the assistance of a professional mediator.
Obtaining supervised grandparent visitation (The latter option is probably not a preferable choice for most grandparents. However, if it is your only choice, you may have to accept it at least temporarily.)
All Involved May Need a Family Lawyer
The subject of Grandparent Rights can become a complex subject in Ohio. The grandparents and other parties may need to talk to a family law attorney —someone who knows the law and can help you to attain access to your grandchildren.
If you do not win your complaint, you may not want to give up trying to be granted some time with your grandchildren. You will want to appeal. You will need someone to help you who has legal knowledge of this subject. Call 888.534.4850 for help with grandparents’ rights in Ohio.