This is the 6th installment in a series by Virginia Cornwell, a Ohio Grandparent Rights Attorney and Ohio State Bar Association Certified Family Relations Specialist. Virginia is one of approximate 100 attorneys in Ohio to have received this honor.
State of Ohio Grandparent Visitation Rights When the Parents of the Child Were Married When the Child Was Born
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 3109.051(B), a grandparent may request visitation with their grandchild or grandchildren by filing a motion in a divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment, or child support proceeding. The law actually provides that the court may “grant reasonable companionship or visitation rights to any grandparent, any person related to the child by consanguinity (blood) or affinity (marriage), or any other person other than a parent”. This means that anybody can try to intervene in these types of action and file a motion to receive visitation with a child. However, just because anybody can apply, it does not mean that just anybody will be granted visitation of a child. Aunts, uncles, friends of the family, people in gay or lesbian relationships can all apply for visitation, but of all these categories, grandparents are the class most likely to receive visitation.
If the parents of the child in question were married when the child was born, are still married, and none of the above proceedings has been filed by the parents, then a grandparent does not have a right to even ask the court for visitation. When weighing the needs of a child, the law in the state of Ohio puts preserving the sanctity of an intact marriage ABOVE the need of the child to have a relationship with both sides of the child’s extended family. This causes distress to many grandparents who are alienated from their grandchildren due to conflicts between the parents, or one of the parents, and the grandparents. The bottom line is if the parents of the children are happily married, and the children are well cared for (not the subject of an abuse, neglect, dependency proceeding, or a Children Services case, then grandparents are going to have to work out their differences with the parents in order to have access to the child.
Grandparents – read this next line carefully – short of being a dangerous criminal or child abuser yourself, the surest way to make sure you never get access to your grandchildren is to make a false report to Children’s Services. DON’T DO IT. You cannot unring that bell, and a great attorney is not going to be able to clean up that mess. If you pick up that phone to call the local Children’s Services in your county about your grandchildren, you need to have a darn good reason to do so. A reason that means the child is abused or neglected, not a parenting style that you do not believe is ideal.
In the state of Ohio, a court can award visitation to a grandparent during or after a divorce, dissolution, legal separation, annulment or child support proceeding, if ALL of the following apply:
(a) The grandparent, relative, or other person files a motion with the court seeking companionship or visitation rights.
(b) The court determines that the grandparent, relative, or other person has an interest in the welfare of the child.
(c) The court determines that the granting of the companionship or visitation rights is in the best interest of the child. (the factors used to determine the best interest of the child when deciding visitation rights is set out in Ohio Revised Code 3109.051(D).
If an award of grandparents visitation rights is made, and circumstances later change, a grandparent can file to modify their grandparent visitation. The law in the state of Ohio says a court should not consider modifying an award of grandparent visitation unless the circumstances of the child have changed.
What is important to realize here is that if grandparents of children whose parents were married want grandparent visitation, then the grandparents should to become involved EARLY in the proceedings in which the parents end their marriage or seek child support in court. If a grandparent waits to see what the court will do in the divorce, decides they do not like the amount of parenting time that their son or daughter received, and THEN tries to file for grandparent visitation, a court is not going to take the request very seriously, unless both parents are denying the grandparent access to their grandchildren.
In Ohio divorce cases, allegations are sometimes made that when one parent or the other exercises parenting time, it is really the grandparent who is caring for the child. This is commonly an allegation that is used as a tool to allege that one parent is unable or unwilling to care for their children, and is delegating that responsibility to the grandparents. Make no mistake – it is perfectly fine for grandparents to provide child care for grandchildren while parents are working. Most courts would find this preferable to being with strangers in a day care setting. However, if time with grandparents is going to constantly cause problems between parents, and jeapordize whether grandparents will be able to spend time with their grandchildren, then court ordered grandparent visitation may be the answer.
The other articles in the series can be seen here:
DISCLAIMER – read it!