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Rights of Extended Family Members in Ohio Custody Cases

Rights of Extended Family Members in Ohio Custody Cases
December 27, 2019 Shannon Dawes
Why hire a family law attorney

Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins all play a crucial role in a child’s life. When a child’s parents get divorced or separate, the parents themselves, as well as their extended family members, are all impacted by the custody orders that follow. What is more, the ability of extended family members to see and interact with a child can depend on the willingness of the parents to allow access to the child. This can be extremely frustrating and painful to family members, who may feel suddenly cut off from a child they consider to be their kin.

Visitation Rights of Extended Family Members in Ohio

In Ohio, grandparents and other extended family members have no guaranteed right to see their grandchildren. If the parent who has current custody of the child does not desire to have the child’s extended family around, then in most every situation a court will respect that right and not force visitation between the child and the extended family. For example, suppose a young child’s mother is the primary custodian for her child and is hosting a birthday party for the child. The father’s parents (the child’s grandparents) express a desire to attend the birthday party and celebrate. The mother is well within her rights to deny the request, and (barring some unusual circumstance) the father’s parents have no recourse.

Can Extended Family Members Ever Have Rights to Custody or Visitation? 

Absent the death of the parents or a finding by a court that both parents are unfit and their parental rights should be terminated, there is not much a court can do to grant visitation to extended family members over the objection of one or both parents. Grandparents can specifically file a motion with the court having jurisdiction over the custody or divorce hearing. Such motion will be granted and visitation awarded where evidence shows that visitation with the grandparents filing the motion is in the best interests of the child.

What If A Court Does Not Award Any Visitation to Grandparents or Others?

All hope is not lost, even if a court is unable or unwilling to grant visitation to a child’s grandparents or others. There are two options available:

  • First, the parents themselves can always reach an agreement with one another and with the extended family members about when and under what conditions visitation can occur. If there are simmering tensions between the various family members, mediation may be successful in producing an agreement that everyone can accept and honor. Where parents of a child reach such agreements, courts rarely second-guess them or override them. If this agreement is entered as an order of the court, then there may be some recourse available in the event the parents attempt to suddenly cut off visitation.
  • Next, one parent’s refusal to allow extended family members to visit while the child is in that parent’s custody does not necessarily mean the other parent must also prevent those same individuals from having contact with the child when the other parent has custody. In the example above, the father may choose to throw a second birthday party when he has custody of his child and invite his parents over to celebrate at that time.

Where to Turn for Help with Complicated Custody Issues

If you have questions or concerns about child or grandparent visitation laws in Ohio, let Dawes Legal, LLC help clear them up. We have years of experience helping parents, grandparents, and others navigate the sometimes murky waters surrounding divorce, visitation and child custody cases. Reach out to our office at (614) 733-9999 and schedule your consultation with us today.