Stepparents often have relationships with their stepchildren that resemble the relationship between a biological parent and child, or that are even closer than those that many biological parent-child pairs maintain. Which is why when a biological parent and a stepparent divorce, it can be extremely emotional and trying for the stepparent and child, with the former fearing that due to their non-biological relationship with the child, they will be barred from custody. Here’s what you need to know:
Does a Stepparent Have Standing?
One of the first things to consider is whether or not a stepparent has “standing,” or the legal right to be heard by a court regarding a child custody/visitation case. In many cases, a court will not recognize a stepparent’s rights, instead automatically giving preference to the biological parent. However, a stepparent may have standing when:
- The stepparent has participated in the child’s upbringing and life;
- The stepparent has acted as an actual parent for an extended length of time;
- The stepparent has played a critical role in the child’s raising, including providing financial support, love, and care;
- There is a strong bond between the stepparent and the child; and
- The court finds that the child would suffer harm if the stepparent were to be denied partial custody or visitation.
A stepparent may also be awarded custody of a child in the event that the biological parent is found to be unfit to provide care for the child. For example, if the biological party suffers from disability or mental health issues, has committed domestic abuse, or is convicted of a crime, the stepparent may be a safer choice for the primary custodial parent.
Ohio Statute and Child Custody
A review of Ohio statute shows that stepparents and others who have an emotional connection with a child, including grandparents and other relatives, may seek visitation with a child. To be sure, Ohio Laws and Rules Section 3109.051(B) reads that in a divorce or separation case that involves a child, the court may grant reasonable companionship or visitation rights to “any person related to the child by consanguinity or affinity” when all of the following apply:
- The person filing a motion with the court is asking for companionship/visitation rights;
- The court determines that the individual has an interest in the welfare of the child; and
- The court finds that it is within the child’s best interests to grant the individual rights regarding companionship/visitation.
Are You a Stepparent Going Through a Divorce in Ohio?
If you are a stepparent who is getting divorced and have questions about your rights to continue caring for and spending time with your stepchild, contact the Comunale Law Office today. We can help you petition a court for custody or visitation rights, and will advocate for you throughout the process.