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What Are a Father’s Rights in Ohio?

As a married or unmarried father in Ohio, you may be concerned about how to protect your right to parent your children. You may have heard other dads or those in the legal profession talking about father’s rights, and it has you wondering what are a father’s rights in Ohio?

Maybe you may have a great relationship with the mother of your child, but you are still concerned about your rights down the road. Or maybe you’ve found yourself in an unexpected divorce and custody battle. Either way, you have concerns that family court favors the mother.

Here’s what you really need to know:

If you are married to the mother of your child, you have the same parental rights as the mother. Custody and visitation will be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the best interest of the child. If you are an unmarried father, you do not automatically have any parental rights. The law requires you to take action to establish your parental rights.

What Are a Father’s Rights During a Divorce?

In Ohio, married parents who are seeking a divorce or separation are on a level playing field when it comes to parental rights.

Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §3109.03 states the following:

“When husband and wife are living separate . . . or are divorced, and the question as to the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of their children and the place of residence and legal custodian of their children is brought before a court of competent jurisdiction, they shall stand upon an equality as to the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of their children and the place of residence and legal custodian of their children, so far as parenthood is involved.”

That doesn’t mean that you will automatically get 50/50 custody with your spouse. This law only establishes that a husband and wife should be treated fairly by the court.

The court no longer assumes that custody of the children should automatically go to the mother. Now, the court must establish what arrangement would be in the best interest of the child.

However, even with a level playing field, establishing a custody arrangement is complicated. That’s why so many fathers facing custody issues reach out to an Ohio family attorney.

What Are an Unmarried Father’s Rights?

Ohio fathers who aren’t married to the mother of their children face a tougher path to having parental rights. The law does not automatically grant parental rights to unmarried fathers. Instead, you will have to affirmatively establish paternity to have parental rights.

There are a few different paths to establishing your parental status:

  1. Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit: Both the mother and father can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit.This is the easiest path to establishing paternity in Ohio, and it can be done right in the hospital when your baby is born.
  2. Administrative Order Establishment of Paternity: If there is any uncertainty (like if the mother of the child contests that you are the father), you can seek genetic testing and an order from the Child Support Enforcement Agency of Ohio (CSEA). CSEA has the authority to order genetic testing, issue a paternity order reflecting the results of the testing, and hold a support hearing.
  3. Court Order: In other cases, a juvenile court or a domestic relations court may issue an order settling paternity.

Establishing paternity does not guarantee you time with your children. It only means that you are on equal footing with the mother of the children when the court decides the custody and visitation arrangement.

Ultimately, the court will still make a custody and visitation arrangement based on the child’s best interest. Fathers have rights in Ohio, but during a divorce and/or custody battle, those rights may feel like they’re being swept away or ignored. If you are worried about the outcome of your divorce or custody matter, reach out to the experienced Ohio divorce and family lawyers at Trolinger Law Offices. Contact our team today.