What Are Grandparents' Rights In Ohio?

What Are Grandparents' Rights In Ohio?
July 24, 2023

Anyone who grew up spending time with a loving grandparent knows the vital impact that grandparents can have on every stage of life. They connect us to our past and help to inspire our future. For grandparents, it’s also a special thing to enjoy time with grandchildren. Oftentimes there are less rules, more fun, and plenty of wonder and imaginative play involved. The dynamic of the grandchild-grandparent relationship is unlike any other. However, when family relations are strained, it can be difficult for grandparents to spend the time with grandchildren that they would like to. 

At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, we understand the painful situation that grandparents can find themselves in when access to grandchildren is restricted. As child custody attorneys, we are always committed to doing what is best for children, and spending time with loving and nurturing adults is almost always in a child’s best interest. That said, there are some key considerations and situations that can complicate a grandparent’s rights in Ohio. 

Ohio’s Stand on Grandparent Rights

Ohio takes a clear stand on the importance of grandparents’ rights to visitation and companionship. In fact, grandparents in Ohio have more rights than they would in many other states. However, the statutes that govern their rights can be complex. Even though they are often pivotal to a child’s growth and development, grandparents are technically and legally considered third parties to a child’s upbringing. As long as parents are responsibly taking care of their children, they retain total authority over who spends time with their child(ren).

In cases where parents and grandparents enjoy a generally harmonious relationship, neither party typically needs to worry about their legal rights when it comes to spending time with grandchildren. However, in certain cases, relations may be strained or other situations may require a court’s intervention to preserve grandparents’ rights. 

Grandparents in Ohio can be awarded visitation rights with biological or adopted grandchildren in a few select circumstances:

  • As part of the parents’ divorce, dissolution or separation of their marriage
  • If your child (grandchild’s parent) is deceased
  • If your grandchild is born to unwed parents

If your grandchild’s parents were not married when their child was born, maternal grandparents can automatically seek visitation. However, for paternal grandparents to seek visitation, paternity will typically need to be proven before an official request can be submitted to the court. 

To be clear, no situation can guarantee that a grandparent can secure visitation or companionship time with their grandchild(ren). How Ohio courts act in these matters ultimately depends on how they determine the grandchild(ren)’s best interests. This is an important point, because clearly the parents of your grandchild do not feel it is in the child’s best interest to spend time with you, or you would not be in a position where you need to petition a judge for visitation rights. So proving the importance of time spent with your grandchild, and how that will benefit them, is vital. 

These are some of the factors that Ohio judges use to help determine whether visitation with grandparents is in a child’s physical, mental, and emotional best interest:

  • Parents’ wishes and concerns
  • Prior relationship between the child(ren) and the grandparent
  • Geographical distance between child(ren) and grandparent
  • Schedules and availability of all parties
  • Age of the child(ren)
  • The child(ren)’s wishes
  • The child(ren)’s health and safety
  • Mental and physical health of all parties
  • Any criminal record relating to child abuse or neglect on the part of a grandparent

Since you, as the grandparent, are making the request, the burden of proof lies with you. However it is possible that even after securing a legal right to visitation, your child will refuse to comply. That said, pursuing matters to the point of legal action against your child and their partner to enforce your rights will often further damage your relationship with your child, and could threaten your relationship with your grandchild. At the same time, though, it could be the only way you are able to spend time with your grandchild. Partnering with an experienced child custody attorney can help to ensure that you thoughtfully and carefully weigh the consequences of legal action while still protecting your rights as a grandparent.

Grandparents and Child Custody

Besides pursuing visitation rights, grandparents may also see things in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives or living situations that worry them. They may feel that a grandchild is being subjected to unsafe or unhealthy circumstances and wish to seek custody. For this to happen, parents must be proven to be unfit to care for your grandchild. While this is a separate issue to visitation, the court will still view the child’s best interest as top priority when making a decision. This is a very serious step with a high legal burden and should really only be pursued with the help of a skilled child custody attorney. Alternatives to assuming custody include filing a kinship power of attorney or caretaker affidavit. It is important to realize that without these legal procedures in place, grandparents technically do not retain the right to make decisions about a grandchild’s care.

Perhaps you know that your grandchild would prefer to live with you. You may wonder, “Will the court listen to a child’s wishes?” Much like in other custodial questions, an Ohio judge can request an in chamber meeting, where, depending on age and ability, they may be able to speak one-on-one with your grandchild to get their honest thoughts and determine their wishes. 

Work With Experienced Child Custody Attorneys in Cleveland, Ohio

Grandparents who find themselves unable to spend time with their grandchildren due to parental limitations do not need to accept this reality–the law gives you recourse! At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC we know how important it is for both grandparents and grandchildren to build and foster a loving relationship with each other. We value a child’s best interest above all else, and we will help grandparents to fight for their legal rights to be part of their grandchildren’s lives. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel your rights as a grandparent are being overlooked or ignored, please contact our skilled team of attorneys to schedule a consultation. We will do all we can to help you spend valuable time with your precious grandchild.