Stepparents are Parents too! Stepparent Visitation!
I always like to talk about the connotations associated with the words we use every day. Whether they are positive or negative, the words we use can have a grave impact upon a person’s feelings. One such word that comes to mind is stepmom or stepdad. Generally, feelings associated with the word step anything can result in feelings of negativity. I am sure everyone remembers Cinderella’s EVIL stepmother! Being a stepchild, I understand why those feelings can sometimes arise. Blended families come with many obstacles. However, I also know why they can also be associated with very positive connotations and because of that I thank God every day for blessing me with my stepfather, my dad. In the spirit of Father’s Day, I would like to talk about laws in Ohio that have resulted in stepparent visitation and sometimes even custody!
Visitation and Ohio Law
Ohio has codified within its laws three (3) ways to seek visitation with a minor child. They include the following:
- Ohio Revised Code § 3109.051: “In a divorce, dissolution, legal separation, annulment, or a child support proceeding that involves a child, the Court may grant reasonable companionship or visitationrights to any grandparent, any person related to the child by consanguinity or affinity, or any other person other than a parent.”
- Ohio Revised Code § 3109.11: “If either the father or mother of an unmarried minor child is deceased, the court of common pleas of the county in which the minor child resides may grant the parents and other relatives of the deceased father or mother reasonable companionship or visitationrights with respect to the minor child during the child’s minority.”
- Ohio Revised Code § 3109.12: “If a child is born to an unmarried woman, the parents of the woman and any relative of the woman may file a complaint requesting the court of common pleas of the county in which the child resides to grant them reasonable companionship or visitation rights with the child. If a child is born to an unmarried woman and if the father of the child has acknowledged the child and that acknowledgment has become final pursuant to section 2151.232, 3111.25, or 3111.821 of the Revised Code or has been determined in an action under Chapter 3111. of the Revised Code to be the father of the child, the father may file a complaint requesting that the court of appropriate jurisdiction of the county in which the child resides grant him reasonable parenting time rights with the child, and the parents of the father and any relative of the father may file a complaint requesting that the court grant them reasonable companionship or visitation rights with the child.”
Visitation: Determining the “Best Interest” of a Child
Even though you have a right to file a Motion with the Court requesting visitation with a minor child, please note that it is not granted automatically! Even though a stepparent could have been your actual parent since birth, the stepparent must still prove that visitation is in the stepchild’s “best interest”. I suppose that begs the question of what is used to determine a child’s best interest. The Court has a lot of discretion when determining if parenting time is really in the child’s best interest, but they do have a few guidelines laid out in Ohio laws (specifically O.R.C. §3109.051) and they include the following:
- The prior interaction and interrelationships of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, and with the person who requested companionship or visitation if that person is not a parent, sibling, or relative of the child;
- The geographical location of the residence of each parent and the distance between those residences, and if the person is not a parent, the geographical location of that person’s residence and the distance between that person’s residence and the child’s residence;
- The child’s and parents’ available time, including, but not limited to, each parent’s employment schedule, the child’s school schedule, and the child’s and the parents’ holiday and vacation schedule;
- The age of the child;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- If the court has interviewed the child in chambers, pursuant to division (C) of this section, regarding the wishes and concerns of the child as to parenting time by the parent who is not the residential parent or companionship or visitation by the grandparent, relative, or other person who requested companionship or visitation, as to a specific parenting time or visitation schedule, or as to other parenting time or visitation matters, the wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court;
- The health and safety of the child;
- The amount of time that will be available for the child to spend with siblings;
- The mental and physical health of all parties;
- Each parent’s willingness to reschedule missed parenting time and to facilitate the other parent’s parenting time rights, and with respect to a person who requested companionship or visitation, the willingness of that person to reschedule missed visitation;
- In relation to parenting time, whether either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or a neglected child; whether either parent, in a case in which a child has been adjudicated an abused child or a neglected child, previously has been determined to be the perpetrator of the abusive or neglectful act that is the basis of the adjudication; and whether there is reason to believe that either parent has acted in a manner resulting in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
- In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, whether the person previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or a neglected child; whether the person, in a case in which a child has been adjudicated an abused child or a neglected child, previously has been determined to be the perpetrator of the abusive or neglectful act that is the basis of the adjudication; whether either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of section 2919.25 of the Revised Code involving a victim who at the time of the commission of the offense was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding; whether either parent previously has been convicted of an offense involving a victim who at the time of the commission of the offense was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding and caused physical harm to the victim in the commission of the offense; and whether there is reason to believe that the person has acted in a manner resulting in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
- Whether the residential parent or one of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court;
- Whether either parent has established a residence or is planning to establish a residence outside this state;
- In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, the wishes and concerns of the child’s parents, as expressed by them to the court;
- Any other factor in the best interest of the child.
Visitation: Ohio Case Law on StepparentS Visitation
Ohio has, on many occasions, granted stepparents visitation with the minor children they have parented. The following cases show the strong precedence for stepparent visitation and sometimes even custody:
- In Hutton v. Hutton, 21 Ohio App.3d 26 (Ohio Ct. App. 9th Dist. 1984), the Court found that the granting of visitation rights to stepfather over his stepdaughter was not an abuse of discretion where stepfather had been acting as the child’s father, the natural father had apparently made no effort to exercise his visitation rights, and where natural mother, stepfather’s wife who had filed complaint for divorce against the stepfather and who had moved out of the marital residence with the child, opposed the motion but stated that she did not oppose the stepfather’s visiting his stepdaughter.
- In Shannon v. Shannon, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting stepfather visitation rights with ex-wife’s child from previous marriage, where guardian ad litem recommended that stepfather be granted visitation rights, and stepfather was the only real father the child had for six of her 11 years.
- In the Case, In re K.P.R., the Warren County Court of Appeals determined that stepparents are relatives by affinity who have standing to request visitation with the minor child.
- In the Case, In re Whaley, 86 Ohio App.3d 304, (Ohio Ct. App., 4th Dist. 1993) the Court actually granted permanent custody to the stepmother and visitation rights to the natural parents!
Ultimately, the determination of visitation with the minor child is placed in the hands of the Court hearing the case. As your attorney, it is our job to ensure that all the facts are presented to the Court. It is our job to ensure that your voice is heard and your reasons are noted. Sometimes it is even beneficial to have the child interviewed by the Judge on the matter of visitation (this is called an in-camera interview). Other times a Guardian Ad Litem must be appointed to speak for what is in the best interest of the minor child.
I know that I would not be the person that I am today if it were not for the support, love, encouragement, and high ideals that were placed within me by my stepfather. Cheers to all the stepparents out there and here is to working through those negative connotations so that fairy tales can put stepparents in the positive light of nurturer and most of all, parent.
Our Dayton, Ohio Attorneys are experienced in matters of visitation. Whether you are looking for grandparent vistiation, stepparent visitation, or if you are a natural parent seeking visitation with your child, we are here to help. Please click on visitation to obtain contact information and to schedule an appointment with an experienced Ohio attorney!
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