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Every state has rules regarding a grandparent’s rights to visit their grandchildren. In most cases, grandparents have few, if any, rights if theirs is not the child who was awarded custody. This can obviously be emotionally trying, especially for grandparents who have developed a rapport with their grandchildren. The question then becomes: Do grandparents have standing in an Ohio court to use the weight of the court to force the children’s custodian to allow them visitation?

In Re Martin

In Re Martin was an Ohio lawsuit that arose in response to grandparents suing for visitation rights. The Ohio Supreme Court determined that grandparents have no intrinsic right to associate with their grandchildren. However, they do have standing to sue given that certain conditions are met. In other words, the courts are free to consider whether or not an ongoing relationship with their grandchildren is in the best interests of the children.

The Best Interests of the Children

The courts consider this the paramount concern when determining issues of custody, child support, and the access of grandparents. While grandparents may not have any right under the constitution to have a relationship with their grandchildren, the statute that considers the best interests of the children gives them the right to sue for visitation rights. The catch is that they must show that denying them access will actually harm the children.

Grandparents and Divorce: When Grandparents Can Sue for Visitation in Ohio

The typical scenario involves custody being granted to the parent who is not the grandparents’ own child. Grandparents may only sue when one parent is deceased, the parents are unmarried, or the couple is divorced. Grandparents may not sue when the couple is still together. In other words, a couple in an intact family may deny the grandparents access to the children for any reason they please.

What Does the Court Consider when Accounting for the Best Interests of the Children?

The court needs to make a determination on the best interests of the children. Just because it excludes one parent from having access to the children doesn’t mean that parent’s own parents should be restricted from having access to the children. This is particularly true when those grandparents have played a particularly important role in the children’s lives.

For instance, if one parent has a drug problem, the court may decide that the other parent should have sole custody and that the children should not have contact with that parent. The grandparents, however, have a strong relationship with the child. The parent with custody, however, decides that they want a clean break from the entire family or is afraid that the grandparents may allow the other parent access if they allow the grandparents to visit.

In that case, the court must make a determination as to the best interests of the children and weigh the fears of the custodial parent against the potential value of a continued relationship with the grandparents. The courts are not limited in what factors they can consider when it comes to determining the best interests of the child. These include:

  • The wishes of the custodial parent;
  • The extent of the children’s interaction with their grandparents;
  • The geographical distance between the children and their grandparents;
  • The children’s age;
  • The wishes of the individual children;
  • The health and safety of the children;
  • The children availability in terms of schedule;
  • The physical and mental health of the grandparents;
  • The grandparents’ willingness to accommodate the children’s schedules;
  • The grandparents’ criminal record; and
  • Just about any other factor that may impact the child’s welfare.

Adoption and Grandparent Visitation Rights

Whether or not a grandparent would lose visitation rights would depend on the best interests of the child. However, a grandparent’s right to visit the child is severely restricted under Ohio law. If the grandparent’s child has died and the other parent remarries, the spouse of the other parent may file for adoption. In that case, the grandparents may still visit the child. However, grandparents may lose any right to visit the child if the parents either divorced or were never married.

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Have an Attorney Advocate on Your Behalf

The information above outlines when grandparents may use the power of the court to enforce a visitation order. For that, you will need an attorney who understands how Ohio law works and can prove to the court that keeping you in your grandchildren’s lives is in their best interests. The law can be tricky here, however. There will be notices to file and legal arguments to be made.

The Columbus, Ohio grandparents’ rights attorneys at Lawrence Law Office have successfully advocated on behalf of grandparents who were being prevented from seeing their grandchildren. Give us a call or talk to us online and we can begin preparing your petition today.

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