Special Circumstances in Ohio Parental Rights Cases

No two parental rights and responsibilities cases are the same. Find information below on circumstances that may arise during your case.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules to meet your special circumstances.

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Establishing paternity

When a court declares a man the father of a child, it's called establishing paternity.

A woman is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of any child she gives birth to while unmarried, until a court establishes paternity for the child and grants the father parental rights.

To ask a court to establish paternity, you need an affidavit or genetic testing.

Parents may sign a paternity affidavit at the hospital after the child's birth or later at the Child Support Enforcement Unit office. The document must be notarized. Once the court establishes paternity this way, it will only change it with the consent of both parents, even if testing proves another man to be the biological father.

In the absence of a signed affidavit, the mother or alleged father can open a paternity case (with a custody case or separately). The proceeding involves gathering DNA to prove or disprove paternity.

History of crime, violence or substance abuse

Judicial officers consider convictions and supported allegations of crime, violence or substance abuse when deciding what's in the children's best interests. Even if parents agree to settle a case, the officer may not approve their parenting plan when complicating factors like these are involved.

To receive custody, a parent with these issues should prove reform. The custody may come with stipulations, such as participation in drug testing, therapy or classes.

A parent with ongoing problems has near zero chance of receiving custody. The court may still award them parenting time — possibly supervised (explained below) — so they can maintain a relationship with the children.

If you have a history of crime, violence or substance abuse, you'll need an attorney to prove your parental fitness.

Your attorney may advise you to have your criminal record expunged, making it as though the proceedings never occurred. You must meet Ohio's criteria for expungement.

They may also suggest you provide medical records to prove sobriety or involvement in rehabilitation programs.

In addition, your lawyer will help you choose witnesses who can help prove your changed behavior, such as a parole officer or sober coach.

Either parent can request a custody evaluation (by a legal or mental health professional) or investigation (by a guardian ad litem, a social worker or Child Protective Services) to inspect the lives of parents and children in the case. The court can also order an evaluation or investigation without request.

Parents who make false claims hurt their requests for custody and may have their final custody orders changed. In addition, anyone who makes false claims of child abuse or neglect to a court can be charged with a crime. Furthermore, lying under oath is a felony punishable by jail time or fines.

Protection from domestic violence

Courts take special precautions to protect parents from domestic violence during custody cases.

Victims can ask the court to conceal their addresses and other identifying information. In addition, they can meet with mediators, collaborative law teams and parent coordinators individually, rather than at the same time as the other parent.

Talk to a lawyer or legal aid society for help, or use Ohio's various resources for domestic violence victims.

Monitored exchanges and supervised parenting time

When a court orders monitored exchanges, a neutral party must be present any time parents exchange their children. This helps prevent conflict between the parents and, in some cases, means they don't even have to see each other.

The court may also specify where exchanges can happen ― usually at a safe place like a police station, school, library or monitored exchange facility.

When a court orders supervised parenting time, a neutral party monitors every visit a parent has with their child, and the court specifies where the visits take place.

Situations that may call for supervised parenting time include:

  • When there's history or allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect or substance abuse
  • When there's concern the parent may kidnap the child
  • When the parent has a serious mental illness
  • When the parent and child do not have an existing relationship
  • When the parent and child have had a long separation

Many counties in Ohio have supervised visitation facilities where trained supervisors monitor visits.

Alternatively, a professional, family friend or relative of either parent can monitor at-home visits, with court approval.

In therapeutic supervised visits, a mental health professional monitors parenting time while working to improve the parent–child relationship.

All supervisors must be present for the entirety of visits, pay close attention to what happens, and interrupt if they have concerns. They may write reports to help the court determine if supervision is still necessary, and they are always required to report suspected child abuse.

Parental alienation

Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to distort their children's relationship with the other parent through lies and manipulation.

A full custody evaluation ― complete with interviews, observation and possibly psychological testing ― is usually necessary to confirm alienating behavior.

If alienation is confirmed, the evaluator may recommend that the alienated parent attend reunification therapy with the children. They may also recommend gradually-increasing parenting time or even sole custody for the alienated parent.

Talk to an attorney if you need to prove or disprove parental alienation, as it is a serious and complex allegation.

Parenting education seminars

Some courts require parents to complete a parenting education seminar before divorcing. In other cases, parents may have to take a seminar as part of their final custody order. (In this situation, parents cannot modify the order or ask the court to enforce a parenting time schedule until they finish the course.)

Seminars teach about the effects of parental conflict and divorce on children. They are sometimes available online.

Foreign languages

All official court business is conducted in English.

The Ohio supreme court's Language Services Program offers translated versions of court forms.

If you need an interpreter, the language program can help you request one. Interpreters are available for American Sign Language, Arabic, Cantonese, French, Haitian-Creole, Korean, Lao, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese and more.

Grandparent visitation or custody

The court can grant grandparents visitation or custody if it's in the children's best interests. Parents can include visitation rights for grandparents in a settlement agreement, or grandparents may file a motion for visitation with the court.

Ohio courts can grant grandparents' requests for visitation rights under any of the following circumstances:

  • When parents separate or divorce
  • When one of the child's parents is deceased
  • When the child is born to an unmarried mother

It's rare for grandparents to receive custody when both parents are living. However, the court may grant grandparents custody under any of the following circumstances:

  • When both parents are unfit (e.g., severe mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse)
  • When one parent is unfit and the other is unable or unwilling to take custody
  • When both parents agree to give custodial rights to the grandparents
  • When parents have abused or neglected the children

Even if these conditions exist, it is not a guarantee grandparents will receive custody if other family members are willing to care for the children. Contact a local attorney for guidance on making your case for custody.

Addressing special situations in your parenting plan

Your parenting plan should be unique to your family and reflect your specific needs.

If a lawyer or mediator is writing your plan, it's important you share with them any circumstances the plan should address.

If you're writing your own plan, you have the flexibility to include what you want. But — the plan needs to follow a format the judicial officer will understand, as well as use airtight language that leaves no room for interpretation.

The Custody X Change parenting plan template walks you through common provisions, while letting you enter as many custom provisions as you want. It's a sure way to get a plan that's tailored to your family AND meets court standards for formatting and language.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules to meet your special circumstances.

Make My Ohio Plan Now

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules to meet your special circumstances.

Make My Plan