As a grandparent, you may wish to maintain a strong relationship with your grandchildren. But what happens when circumstances make maintaining that relationship difficult?
Fortunately, the Supreme Court of Ohio has recognized that grandparents may attempt to gain custody of their grandchildren when certain conditions are met. These cases are very fact-specific and require that the court make two individual findings under two different burdens of proof. The process is difficult and grandparents face an uphill struggle, but there is hope with the assistance of a dedicated and experienced grandparents’ rights attorney.
Ohio courts are empowered to award visitation rights to a child’s grandparents. To succeed, the grandparent must show an interest in the welfare of the child and that visitation is in the grandchild’s “best interests.”
Grandparents can seek visitation rights either in a child custody case or as part of a divorce case, even if the divorce has already been granted. Courts are empowered to grant visitation rights to grandparents or “any person related to the child by consanguinity or affinity.” Regardless of the specific relationship with the children, the same conditions apply.
Grandparents are eligible to seek visitation rights when: (1) married parents terminate a marriage; (2) a parent of a child is deceased; or (3) when a child is born to an unmarried woman. Grandparents do not have the right to seek visitation rights for grandchildren who live in an intact family.
When assessing a grandparent’s rights to custody or visitation, courts will consider the following factors:
Once a court grants a grandparent visitation rights, the grandparent can seek to have the order enforced through the court system. If a parent interferes with a grandparent’s visitation rights, the parent can be held in contempt of court.
While grandparents have the right to seek visitation, they do not have the right to make decisions about child custody. However, if your grandchildren live with you, you can ask the court to grant you the right to make decisions about your grandchildren’s education and healthcare.
If a child’s parents are unfit or unsuitable to have custody of their children, or if children have been removed from their parents’ home because of abuse or neglect, a grandparent can seek custody of the children. This can be accomplished by filing a Complaint to open a new case, or by filing a Motion for Custody in an Ohio domestic relations case.
Granting custody to a grandparent is rare, and only occurs when the court finds that both parents are unfit or unsuitable to be the custodial parent. If a grandparent can prove that both parents are unfit, then the grandparent who is seeking custody must prove that being placed in the custody of the grandparent is in the “best interests” of the child. Common reasons for a parent to be found unsuitable include habitual drunkenness, habitual drug use, abandonment of the children, and other issues that would cause a court to determine that the parents were unfit.
Being granted custody of a grandchild parent is rare, and fighting for custody of a grandchild is difficult. Cases of grandparents seeking custody of their grandchildren often involve the Ohio Department of Child and Family Services (ODJFS). If you are a grandparent who is considering seeking custody of a grandchild, it is critical that you work with an experienced and aggressive Ohio grandparents’ rights attorney.
In most cases, when a child is adopted the parental rights of one or both parents are terminated. The adoption order also terminates the visitation and custody rights of that parent’s relatives, including grandparents. But if the adoption order does not terminate parental rights, then grandparents still have visitation rights. This occurs most commonly when a parent remarries after a spouse has died and the new spouse wants to adopt the children. In these circumstances, the new spouse cannot terminate the grandparents’ visitation rights.
There are complex laws and nuanced factors that can affect a grandparent’s chances of being granted visitation or custody rights. If you are seeking visitation rights or custody of your grandchildren, you need to work with an experienced Ohio grandparents’ rights attorney.
At Clarke Law, we understand the unique stresses that face a grandparent who is fighting for visitation or custody of their grandchildren. That is why we pride ourselves on being good listeners, and on working hard to make sure that our clients feel heard.
From our offices in Toledo, Clarke Law has been working with families throughout northwest Ohio since 2005. Our attorneys proudly represent people in Lucas County, Wood County, Fulton County, Erie County, and Sandusky County.
We know that questions about child custody and visitation don’t always occur between the hours of 9 and 5. That’s why we make sure that our clients can reach us by cell phone whenever they need us.
If you need assistance with grandparent visitation or grandparent custody rights, contact Clark Law today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We act as true attorneys and counselors and are here to help grandparents work through the process of seeking visitation or custody rights.
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