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Legal Information: Ohio

Custody

Updated: 
January 12, 2021

Before there is a court order, who has custody when the parents are unmarried?

The law says that when an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, she is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a court issues an order to change that. However, if either parent files for custody, the judge must treat the mother and father equally when deciding who gets custody.1

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.042(A)

Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?

When making a decision about parental rights and responsibilities, the judge must take into consideration:

  • whether either parent has a history of, or the potential to commit, domestic violence, child abuse, spouse abuse, and parental kidnapping;
  • if either parent, or any member of the household of either parent, has been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to:
    • domestic violence;
    • a sexually-oriented offense involving a victim who was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the custody proceeding; or
    • any criminal offense that:
      • involves any act that resulted in a child being an “abused child” or a “neglected child;” or
      • resulted in physical harm against someone who is a member of the family or household that is the subject of the custody case.1

However, there are many other factors that a judge will consider as well. See How will a judge make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities (custody)? Therefore, the fact that a parent committed domestic violence does not necessarily mean that s/he will be denied custody.

It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in any custody case, especially one involving domestic violence issues. For information on how to find a lawyer, see our Ohio Finding a Lawyer page.

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.04(F)(1)(h), (F)(2)(c)

If my child was conceived from rape, can the offender's rights be terminated?

If the offender was criminally convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, an act of rape or sexual battery that resulted in your child being conceived, you can bring a case in court to ask the judge to issue an order declaring that the offender is “the parent of a child conceived as a result of rape or sexual battery.”1 Once this is established, a judge cannot issue an order granting parental rights to the offender. This is true for female and male offenders.2 If an order granting parental rights was already issued, the judge must end (“terminate”) that order.3

Note: Termination of any parental rights order does not affect any child support payments that were already legally owed to you by that parent.4 Furthermore, any relatives of the offender can only be granted any custody/visitation rights if you agree.5

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.501
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.042
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.504
4 See Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.507(B)
5 Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.506

Can grandparents or other relatives get visitation rights in court?

It is possible for a grandparent or other relative to file for visitation rights at the following times in the child’s life:

  1. If the child is born to an unmarried mother, a grandparent or other relative of either the mother or father can file if s/he meets the requirements explained in section 3109.12 of the law;
  2. If one of the child’s parents dies, a grandparent or other relative of the deceased parent can file if s/he meets the requirements explained in section 3109.11 of the law; or

If there is a divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment, or child support proceeding that involves a child, a grandparent or other relative of either the mother or father, or any other person can file if s/he meets the requirements explained in section 3109.051 of the law.