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Ohio Child Custody Part 2: Rights of Married and Unmarried Parents

This is Part 2 of a Columbus Ohio Child Custody Lawyer series on the Ohio Child Custody Process.

To view the other installments in the series click the links below:  


In Ohio, parents who are married each have the right to have their child with them at any time.  This means that if parents split up, and cannot agree regarding the Child, the old adage that “possession is 9/10 of the law” kicks in.  This puts the Child in a terrible position – the Child becomes a wishbone, and ends up with the Parent that pulls the hardest.  This is not in the best interest of the Child, and the Law has a couple of options for parents that cannot agree about the division of parental rights and parental time.

If the parents cannot afford to get a divorce right away, and cannot agree who should have the Child, one option is for the parents to attend mediation to establish a parenting schedule.  Some mediation through the court system is free, even if you do not have a case pending, it just depends on the county you reside in.  Click here for more information about mediation.

If one of the parents files for divorce, at a minimum, the following parenting issues will be decided if the divorce case proceeds to conclusion:

  • Whether the parents will have shared parenting or if one of the parties will be designated the (sole) residential parent (commonly called sole custody, legal custody or physical custody)
  • If the parents have shared parenting, which parent will be the child’s school placement parent.
  • A parenting time schedule which allows for the Child to see both parents, unless one of the parents is a danger to the Child, physically or psychologically.
  • Which parent, if either, should pay child support to the other
  • The appropriate amount of child support to be paid
  • Which parent (or both) is responsible for providing health insurance for the Child.
  • Which parent (or both) is responsible for paying for medical expenses of the Child which are not covered by insurance
  • Which parent (or both) will claim the Child as a dependent for tax deduction purposes (Ironically, federal law, not state law, governs which parent shall claim the Child for tax purposes, and a state law cannot order you to waive a right given to you by federal law.  Still, Ohio law has not yet been changed to exclude this provision because nobody (yet) wants to litigate this matter on appeal.  The cost involved outweighs the benefit of the dependent exemption, so unfortunately this law remains part of the Ohio Revised Code at this time.


Q. Does legally establishing paternity entitle the Father of a child to visitation with the Child?

No.  This is a common misconception.  Another common misconception is that the Father who has established paternity is then entitled to visitation with the Child pursuant to the schedule that is set out in the local rule model visitation schedule of the county where the Child resides.  This is also untrue.  The purpose of those schedules is to provide an example of the minimum amount of time that a fit parent should have with their child IF AN ACTION IS BROUGHT BEFORE THE COURT TO GET COURT ORDERED VISITATION, CUSTODY OR SHARED PARENTING.

Q. Does payment of child support legally entitle the Father of the Child to exercise parenting time with the Child?

No.  Child support and visitation are two different things in the eyes of Ohio Law.  Paying child support does not entitle a father (or a mother, as the case may be) to have visitation.  Likewise, if a parent has court ordered visitation (parenting time) with their child, their visitation cannot be withheld because they have not paid child support,  unless of course, they are in jail for failure to pay child support.

Q.  Well then, how is an unmarried father who has established paternity supposed to get time with his child?

The Court must make an order granting the Father visitation (parenting time), legal custody (residential parent), or shared parenting before the Father of the Child of an unmarried female has the legal right to spend time with the Child.  Ohio Law provides that once parentage has been established, a court designating the residential parent and legal custodian of a child of an unmarried mother shall treat the Mother and Father as standing upon an equality when making the designation.  As with married parents, the Court can make an order upon the agreement of the parties, or after a trial in which the court ONLY listens to evidence which complies with the Ohio Rules of Evidence.  If a person represents themselves, they are expected to comply with the Ohio Rules of Evidence just the same as a person who has a lawyer.  This is something a lot of people find out the hard way.

  • For more information about the rights of fathers (married and unmarried), click here.
  • For more information about the rights of fathers who were never married to the Mother of the Child, click here.


  1. MB says

    My husband and I have been separated for nearly 3 years.We have never been to court for any custody precedings or any legal placement of our 2 young daughters.I attended school and began a new career that requires I work between 50 to 60 hrs per week.He is currently living with his parents in their home with our daughters due to my work schedule.He claims that he has full custody,his mother agrees.How is that possible without any legal hearing at all?Or is it not and they are just being dishonest,something that occurred regularly while we were residing together.

  2. L says

    I need advice. my sons father passed away over a year ago. he had sole custody. I had visitation rights but was often refused them. my so is 17 almost 18 in june. hes been living with his half sister for the past year due to my health issues and custody issues associated with his father. his sister now wants him removed from the home and wants him to come live with me. what rights due I have as his mother? or what rights would his grandparents have as far as regaining custody. child services claims I would never get custody due to past drug history. I have been clean for over a year and would like to have my son with me. he’s having issues with being unruly amongst other things. I need help.

  3. A says

    I am trying to get as much information about this as possible, so you are telling me basically after divorce is final the father tectecally has no rights to his child, but yet is exspected to pay child support? Now, I am not saying in order to see your child you have to pay child support. Do you guys go through the bill of rights? Everyone has a right don’t they. You all want a father to be in their child’s life but can’t because the mom can do everything possible to keep him away. I am not understanding

  4. J says

    What rights do grandparents have when the parents are still married and live together and have no plan to divorce? Do they have the right to sue for custody because they are not getting visitation?

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