Divorce, separation, or one parent's death can affect grandparents' relationship with their grandchildren. This article explains how grandparents can request court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren when a parent tries to limit their time together.
Do I Have a Legal Right to see My Grandchild in Ohio?
You have a legal right to ask for reasonable visitation during or after a divorce or separation, or after one parent's death if your child is the deceased parent. Other relatives of a deceased parent may also request court-ordered time.
Ohio courts will only award visitation if necessary to facilitate contact over the parents' objection. So if you already spend time with your grandchild, a judge may not consider your request for court-ordered visits.
What Will I Need to Prove in court?
The grandparent asking for time has the "burden of proof" (the duty to provide sufficient evidence) to demonstrate that visitation is in the child's best interest, considering:
Ohio courts automatically presume (assume) parents are qualified to make decisions about th—eir children's care. Judges must give special weight to parents' preferences regarding who their children spend time with. If you show that visitation is in your grandchild's best interest based on the above factors, you can overcome this presumption (legal assumption), and the court may grant your request over the parents' objection.
What If My Grandchild's Parents are Unmarried?
Your right to request grandparent visitation flows from your child's parental rights, regardless of marital status. Once a child's biological connection to a parent is established, the parent—and/or relatives of that parent—can exercise the right to request court-ordered time. This may be easily established if your child is the mother of your grandchildren. If your child is the father, a biological connection may have already been established at birth, by an acknowledgement of paternity, or may be established now through a blood or DNA test.
Will the Court Consider My Grandchild's Wishes?
In Ohio, judges may request an "in chambers meeting" to ask for the child's input or preference about visiting with you. These meetings take place in the judge's office to protect children from having to state their preferences in a public courtroom or with their parents nearby. If your grandchild wants to spend time with you, and you believe the child is old and/or mature enough to state a rational reason for the preference, you can ask the judge to interview the child and consider the child's wishes when making the final decision.
Are My Visitation Rights Terminated If My Grandchild Is Placed for Adoption?
Your visitation rights continue if your child dies and the surviving parent's new spouse adopts your grandchild. However, if anyone other than a stepparent adopts your grandchild, your biological grandparents' visitation rights will be automatically terminated and transferred to the adoptive grandparents.
Do I Have the Right to be Involved in Parenting Decisions If I Have Court-ordered Visitation?
Grandparent visitation creates a right to spend time with your grandchild, but not the authority to make decisions about the child's custody, care, or control. But if your grandchild lives with you because the parents are absent, you can ask the court to give you decision-making rights related to the child's education and health care. You must demonstrate you made a reasonable attempt to locate and contact both parents unless the court has terminated their parental rights.
How do I Start the Process?
You can request visitation by filing a "motion" (formal written request) in the district court for the county where your grandchild lives. If there is an existing case from a divorce or prior custody proceeding, you must file your request in the same court. If you already have a grandparent visitation order, but you want more time—or the child's parent is preventing you from visiting—you can ask the court to "modify" (change) it or enforce the existing order.
If you have questions, you should speak to a local, experienced family law attorney, who can help you navigate this process.