Can I Obtain Custody of a Minor Who Is Not Biologically My Child in Ohio?

There are numerous reasons that, as a non-parent, you may want custody of a child. For example, it’s becoming more common than ever for children to live with their stepparents or grandparents. In any case, the legal process involved is complex. Biological parents are always given the top priority when it comes to custody of their children. There are ways in which you can get custody of a minor who is not your biological child. In order to do so, you’ll have to provide definitive evidence that being placed in your custody is in the child’s best interests.

A knowledgeable family lawyer can be a great resource during the difficulties caused by custody battle. For legal counsel regarding your family in Ohio, contact the law firm of Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA. Custody proceedings can go on for a long time, and cause significant tension. Discussing the case with our attorneys can help you decide on the best way to proceed, for both you and the children. To schedule you free consultation, call family law attorney Zac Dusza at (419) 625-7770, or use our online form.

The Custody Rights of “Suitable Parents” Are Protected by the Constitution

Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, parents are granted the inalienable right to “establish a home and bring up children.” As such, for years courts have recognized the custody right of biological parents. Ohio law does not often provide for parents to have their custody revoked either. Biological parents can only have their child removed from their care if they have been found to be unsuitable as parents.

What Classifies a Biological Parent as “Unsuitable?”

In order to show a parent is unsuitable, it is not enough to simply disagree with their parenting style. It is not even enough to have a living situation that is objectively better than that of the biological parents. The only way to have a child removed from their biological parents custody is to show that remaining under their care would be detrimental to the child’s health. Some scenarios that would qualify under this standard include:

  • Substance abuse. If the biological parents consistently abuse drugs or alcohol, it can be grounds for losing custody;
  • Excessively dangerous conditions. If the home conditions aren’t suitable for raising a child (for example, if there are weapons or dangerous chemical compounds laying around) a biological parent could forfeit custody of their children;
  • Neglect or abuse. If the child is being abused, or if their fundamental needs are not being met, a non-parent may be able to acquire custody of them over a biological parent.

Custody can also be transferred through a signed, binding agreement with the biological parents. Without such an agreement, it will likely be necessary to demonstrate the unsuitability of the biological parents in court. To do so, requires the introduction of a preponderance of evidence showing that one of the aforementioned conditions is met.

If Custody is Declined, Non-Parents Can Still Be Granted Visitation

If you fail to gain custody of a child that’s not biologically yours, it doesn’t mean you’re completely cut off from them. If the parents weren’t married at the time the child was born, the court can grant certain family members visitation or companionship rights. In awarding these rights, the courts consider whether or not it is in the child’s best interest. To determine this, they will examine such factors as:

  • The wishes of the biological parents;
  • The available time of all parties involved;
  • The degree and nature of previous interactions between the child and the non-parents; and
  • The wishes of the child.

It’s important to remember that custody orders, as well as visitation orders, are not necessarily permanent. They are all subject to modification by the court.

Talk to A Lawyer About Your Custody Case

Family lawyer Zac Dusza at Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA can help you resolve your family legal issue. A complex body of law governs family relationships. It is made even more complex by the personal conflict such cases can create. Good representation can help minimize this conflict, and ensure that you’re protected throughout the process. Contact us online, or call (419) 625-7770 to schedule a free consultation with an Ohio family law attorney today.