Step-Parent Rights for Custody and Visitation of Step-Children in an Ohio Divorce

Step parent rights for visitation and custody of step childAlthough a step-parent may seem like a villain when they are adopting someone’s grandchildren and that grandmother or grandfather faces losing visitation rights, the shoe is often on the other foot when step-parents are involved in a divorce and are seeking to visit their step-children.

A step-parent divorcing the biological parent of a child faces many of the same hurdles a grandparent of a similarly-situated child faces when the step-parent comes into the family picture and decides to adopt the step-child or step-children.  Many step-parents seek the same rights and protections within the legal system to safeguard their relationships with their step-children, but unlike a grandparent, no bloodline exists.

What the step-parent may often lack is “standing”—the right to be heard by a court on an issue.  In most cases, jurisdiction is not granted to hear cases between parents and step-parents involving custody disputes over a step-child.

Consideration of “standing” involves determination of several factors including:

  • Degree of step-parent’s participation in the child’s life
  • Length of time step-parent participated as actual parent for the child in place of the child’s natural parent
  • Existence of any emotional ties between step-parent and step-child
  • Amount of financial assistance provided by step-parent
  • Degree of detriment to child if step-parent denied visitation

According to, some 23 states have laws authorizing step-parent visitation.  Ten states expressly grant step-parents the right to seek visitation.  Thirteen more states allow “interested third parties,” including step-parents, to request visitation.  Only four states foreclose the right entirely—Ohio not being one of them.

A court is more likely to order visitation after a divorce if the step-parent meets several of the factors identified in determining “standing” (discussed above).  If the step-child expresses a desire to see the step-parent on a regular basis, this is also viewed favorably by the court.

Many courts view step-parent visitation status on the basis of whether continuing the child’s relationship with a step-parent enhances the child’s life and approves his or her welfare, according to the website,  It must be demonstrated that continuing the relationship is in the best interest of the child.

If the parents are proven unfit, the children will be awarded to a third party, but the court may grant custody to another blood relative before granting it to a step-parent if the court determines that this is in the best interest of the child.  A step-parent who wins custody will be appointed the child’s legal guardian unless the step-parent is applying to adopt the step-child or step-children.

If there are questions about the fitness of a step-parent, visitation rights may be curtailed or denied.   The same would be likely to happen with a grandparent.

Step-parents are likely to face difficult challenges in custody and visitation battles and may need legal help to attain the result they desire.  The experienced Ohio family law attorneys at the law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP are ready to assist you.  They are familiar with Ohio law on these matters and ask that you contact them at 1-888-760-8958 to discuss any concerns you may have.  You can also visit their website at

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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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