Ohio Supreme Court Expands Visitation Rights to Include Non-Relatives

Visitation RightsThe Ohio Supreme Court has recently held that a juvenile court can extend visitation rights to a non-relative when it deems such visitation is in the best interests of the child.

In Rowell v. Smith, case No. 2012-Ohio-4313, a 5-2 majority held that Julie Rowell was properly granted visitation rights by a juvenile court for a child she helped raise.

The case started in 2003, when Julie Smith was artificially inseminated.  According to the case summary, Rowell was present at the insemination, in the delivery room, and helped raise the child for six years.  Rowell and Smith decided to end their relationship in 2009, and Rowell petitioned the court for temporary visitation time with the child.  After several visitation agreements were made, and subsequently violated by Smith (resulting in contempt charges against Smith), the case appeared before the 10th district appellate court.

The appellate court held that the visitation rights granted by the juvenile court were invalid, as Rowell was not a relative.  Because of this, Smith could not be in contempt of an order that was not validly issued.  The case was appealed by Rowell, and went before the Supreme Court, but was settled before oral arguments.  However, the court decided to hear the arguments, as the decision had potential far-reaching effects.

Smith’s counsel argued that the authority to grant such visitation rights were not present in the statute, and therefore were not within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.  Rowell’s counsel countered by arguing that if both parties intentionally brought a child into the world, and raised it together, they should be able to split visitation.

After analyzing the Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.), the Supreme Court Justices ruled that a juvenile court can order temporary visitation if it determines that such a scenario will be in the best interest of the child.  The Court went on to say the juvenile court has the authority to hear such disputes.

This decision has far-reaching effects, as it is now possible for same-sex or similarly situated couples to petition for visitation rights, which will be granted as long as they are in the best interests of the child.

Child custody battles can be ugly.  Both parties should always strive to achieve a balanced agreement that is in the best interests of the child.

If custody of your child becomes an issue, you should contact an Ohio lawyer with extensive family law experience.  Please call Slater & Zurz LLP at 1-888-760-8958 or send us a blog message.  We can set up a time to meet and handle your domestic relations matters.

To learn more about child custody and visitation matters, please visit dissolutionanddivorce.com.

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About slaterzurz

Slater & Zurz LLP is an Ohio law firm of highly experienced and respected attorneys. Over the last 40 years, we have developed a reputation for getting positive results for clients. We've been trusted with handling over 20,000 personal injury cases and our clients have received more than $120,000,000.

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