Today in Ohio, there are thousands of non-traditional family structures, where parents in a house may have been married in the past, and where one party may not be the biological parent of one or more children within the house. In fact, according to StepFamily.org, there are 1,300 new stepfamilies forming everyday throughout the United States, and 50 percent of children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent, and that parent’s partner. In many cases, a stepparent raises a child as if the child were their own.
It is also not uncommon for a couple in their second marriage, and with biological and/or stepchildren living within the home, to divorce. When this happens, do stepparents have the right to seek visitation with their stepchildren, or does the court insist on severing the relationship formed?
The Court Must Act in the Best Interests of the Child
There is no text found within Ohio’s code that explicitly states that the court must award custody to a stepparent. Instead, there are two parts of Ohio code that may apply to stepparent visitation, including:
- ORC Section 3109.051, which reads that during a divorce, the court may grant visitation rights to any person related to the child by affinity, or “any other person other than a parent”; and
- The best interests of the child statute, which requires that the court consider a number of factors in order to make a determination about visitation that is within the child’s best interest, including “the interaction and interrelationships of the child” with other persons related by affinity.”
There are also a handful of court cases that have set a precedent for a stepparent seeking visitation with a child, and the court ruling in the stepparent’s favor.
In one of these cases, the court actually did something very unique and relatively unheard of: it granted custody of the child to the stepmother, and visitation rights to the biological parents. In the other cases, the courts all found that the relationship between the child and the stepparent should be preserved, and therefore visitation with the stepparent was within the child’s best interests.
We Can Help You Seek Visitation with Your Stepchild
If you are going through a divorce in Ohio and are worried about losing the right to see your stepchild, please contact our law offices at your earliest convenience. We can help you to prove to a court that maintaining a relationship with your stepchild is within the child’s best interest, and help you fight back if the child’s parent tries to deny you custody.