There are relationship issues within a family which can disrupt the ability of grandparents to see their grandchild. If the parents are going through a contested divorce, even if it is as simple as an argument between family members, grandparents can have time with their grandchildren limited or withheld altogether. Plymale & Dingus is an experienced central Ohio firm that is skilled in assisting grandparents with visitation rights issues. We will work with you to identify the specific issues of your unique situation and provide you with all of the legal options available to you. We will work to make sure you get to spend time with your grandchild.
What Rights Do Grandparents Have Under Ohio Law?
Changes in Ohio law have not only ensured the rights of grandparents but have broadened the scope of those rights under our laws. For example, even if the biological parents of your grandchild were never married, you have specific rights regarding that child under the law. You have the right to see that child regularly and to establish specific guidelines for your visitation with that child. These issues usually come out of situations involving separation, dissolution, or divorce of the parents but can also become uncomfortable if there is a death of one of your family members, the children are moved out of state, or if there are other conflicts within the family structure.
Ohio Grandparents’ Rights Law
Ohio law permits grandparents, in certain situations, to request judicial intervention to exercise companionship with a grandchild. Grandparents can request such intervention in the following instances:
- The grandchild was born to an unmarried mother, and depending on the county in which the action is filed, if the parents do not subsequently marry each other.
- The grandchild’s parent is deceased and that deceased parent is the child of the grandparent seeking companionship.
- The mother and father are married but are involved in a divorce proceeding.
- The mother and father are divorced.
The Process for Obtaining Grandparent Companionship Rights
If one of the above instances is applicable, a grandparent (or both grandparents) can request either the Juvenile Court of Domestic Relations Court to grant him/her/them reasonable companionship rights with the child. To do so, the grandparent(s) must file either a complaint or motion with the court requesting companionship rights and serve both of the parents pursuant to the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. The matter will then be assigned to a judge, and depending on the county in which the action is filed, a magistrate, and an initial hearing will be scheduled. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the matter will eventually proceed to a contested trial, which will require the testimony of witnesses and the introduction of evidence. Once all testimony and evidence has been submitted, the court will then issue a decision on the complaint or motion either denying or granting the grandparent’s request, which can include an order that the grandparent(s) visit with the child on particular days, possibly including overnight visits.
The Factors To Be Considered by the Court
In order for the court to grant companionship rights to a grandparent, the court must find that such companionship is in the child’s best interests. To determine what is in the best interests of a child, the court will consider the following factors:
- The wishes and concerns of the child’s parents
- The prior interaction and interrelationships of the child with parents and other relatives
- The location of the grandparent’s residence and the distance between it and the child’s residence
- The child’s and parent’s available time
- The child’s age
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The wishes of the child if the court has interviewed the child in chambers
- The health and safety of the child
- The amount of time that a child has available to spend with siblings
- The mental and physical health of all parties
- Whether the person seeking visitation has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving an act that resulted in a child being abused or neglected
- Any other factor the court finds to be relevant
Enforcement Order Granting Grandparent Visitation
If a court issues an order granting a grandparent companionship rights with a child and the parent(s) refuse(s) to comply with the order, the grandparent may petition the court to hold that parent in contempt of court, which could subject the parent to a term of incarceration, a fine, or both, and to pay the court costs and any attorney fees incurred as a result of the prosecution of the contempt motion.
Contact an Experienced, Caring Family Lawyer Who Will Help to Assert Your Rights
Plymale & Dingus offers more than 20 years of successful experience working through these types of difficult issues to protect the rights of Ohio grandparents and to ensure that they get to see and spend time with their grandchildren. You want and deserve access to your grandchild, and we are prepared to help. Please call us at (614) 542-0220 or contact us to schedule an appointment to come in and discuss your situation.