For a child, a grandparent’s love and care is often meaningful and formative. Furthermore, if you are a grandparent, watching your adult child raise their own child can be a profound experience of shared understanding. Yet, there are circumstances in which this is unfortunately not the case.
Perhaps you and your adult child – or their spouse – have a strained or otherwise difficult relationship and, as a result, you have not been able to see your grandchild as much as you’d like. Perhaps your adult child is divorced or deceased and that has caused complications in your ability to spend time with your grandchild. Or perhaps your adult child or their spouse is suffering from a substance abuse or mental health issue, and you are concerned for your grandchild’s safety and well-being.
Divorce, separation, death, and other circumstances can impact grandparents’ ability to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren. As a grandparent, you may want to spend more time with your grandchild than you have been allowed by your grandchild’s parents. Under certain circumstances, Ohio law considers the rights of grandparents to visitation and custody of their grandchildren.
Under What Circumstances Can Grandparents Request Visitation?
The court generally recognizes and protects parents’ rights to decide how best to raise their child, and this includes who has access to their children. Thus, if you are seeking visitation rights to your grandchild over the objections of their parents, you carry the burden of proving that spending time with your grandchild is in their best interests. Section 3109.051, Section 3109.11, and Section 3109.12 of Ohio law specify three circumstances in which grandparents can request visitation:
- If your adult child has passed away.
- If your adult child is legally separated from their spouse or their marriage has ended in divorce.
- If your adult child is not married to the child’s other parent and a biological connection to the child has been established.
Thus, if your adult child has died, has legally separated from or divorced their spouse, or is unmarried, you may be able to pursue visitation rights to your grandchild. There may be other circumstances in which you may wish to appeal to the court for visitation, custody, or companionship time. For instance, you may be concerned that your grandchild is not safe with one or both of their parents. In every circumstance, however, you will need to prove that your request is in the child’s best interest in order to overcome the rights of the child’s biological parents.
How Are the Best Interests of the Child Determined?
As a grandparent seeking visitation rights to your grandchild over the parents’ objections, you will have to demonstrate to the court that your request is in the physical and emotional best interests of the child. There are various factors that the court must consider, including:
- The wishes and concerns of the parents.
- The prior relationship between the child and the grandparent.
- The geographical distance between the child and the grandparent.
- The parents and child’s schedules and availability.
- The child’s age.
- The child’s wishes, as stated to court.
- The health and safety of the child.
- The mental and physical health of all parties.
- Whether the grandparent seeking visitation has a criminal record that relates to child abuse or neglect.
- Any other factor that might determine the best interests of the child.
As you can see, determining the best wishes of the child is not a simple or straightforward process. Especially because the burden of proof lies with the grandparent to prove that visitation is in their grandchild’s best interest, these cases can be very complex. If you are interested in pursuing visitation, custody, or companionship time with your grandchild, we highly recommended that you seek out an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney to ensure the best chance of success.
Do you have questions about your visitation rights as a grandparent? Call Crossman and McNamee, LLC today (937) 468-3796 or fill out our online form today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate family law attorneys.