We often get the question “What are my rights to a child if we are not married?” Ohio Revised Code § 3109.042 provides that a child born to unmarried parents is deemed to be in the sole custody of the mother unless and until a court with proper jurisdiction rules otherwise. This means that the mother has all of the rights and the father has no rights until a court establishes those rights. This also means that the father does not have any visitation rights with the minor child until a court grants those rights.
The follow-up question is usually “How do I establish my rights?”
The first step should be to consult with an attorney. The attorney can then take the necessary steps to file a motion for custody or to establish parental rights with the juvenile court in the county where the minor child resides. The attorney can file a request for a temporary order establishing visitation with the minor child. The court should then set the case for a hearing to determine whether the party filing the motion, typically the father, should be granted visitation. Often times the court will also establish a child support order based on the parties income and the needs of the child. The court can also order testing to determine if the parties are actually the parents of the minor child, also known as paternity testing.
The second step is the court will set the case for a full hearing. If the attorneys and parties can agree to who gets custody and what the visitation is the attorneys can file an agreed entry establishing the custody, visitation, and child support. The court will review the agreement to determine if it is in the best interest of the child and if the agreement is fair and reasonable. If the court determines the agreement is fair and in the best interest of the child the court will sign the entry and rights are established. If the parties cannot agree on the terms of custody, visitation, and child support a hearing will be held where witnesses can be called and evidence presented as to why one party should be granted custody or visitation versus the other side having those rights. The parties or the court can also request that a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed, often referred to as a GAL. A GAL is a person appointed by the court to represent the minor child and assist the parties and the court in determining what is in the best interest of the child. The GAL will prepare a report and submit it to the court and the parties making a recommendation. Keep in mind just because a GAL recommends something doesn’t mean the court or the parties have to go along with it. The court can agree or disagree with the GAL. Once the hearing is over the court will issue a ruling which outlines whom has custody, a visitation schedule, and a child support order.
Note: If a person is receiving government assistance such as housing, food stamps, or cash assistance/welfare the Department of Job and Family Services can file to establish a child support order. Often times this is only an order for child support and visitation is not established.
It is extremely important to have an experienced attorney assist you with custody issues to make sure that your rights are protected. Beck Law Office offers a free initial consultation and flexible payment options. If you need help establishing parental rights contact us at (937)426-4000 to schedule a free initial consultation.