In many U.S. states, unmarried fathers don't have the same rights to the children as married fathers. For example, fathers rights in Ohio depend on the father's marital status. In Ohio, a woman is considered by law to be the sole custodial parent if the child is born when she is not married to the father. An unmarried father has to establish paternity and obtain a court order to get visitation or custody rights – legally known as parenting time.
Establishing Paternity in Ohio
An unmarried father in Ohio can establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit and/or undertaking DNA testing. However, establishing paternity only gives the child the right to medical and child support from the father. It does not guarantee the unmarried father visitation or parenting time.
Ohio Visitation Laws for Fathers
Whenever possible, the court tries to ensure that both parents have frequent and ongoing contact with the child, unless it decides that would not be in the child’s best interests. When establishing parental rights and responsibilities, including visitation, the court considers a proposed shared parenting plan from one or both of the parents. If the plan adequately involves both parents and reflects the child's best interests, the court may simply approve the plan as proposed.
However, if neither parent submits a proposed shared parenting plan, the court will allocate rights according to the best interests of the child. One parent will be the child's residential parent and legal custodian, and have primary parental rights and responsibilities. All other rights and responsibilities, including child support obligations and visitation rights, will then be split between the parents.
The courts in Ohio provide several examples of parenting plans that parents can follow based on the child’s age, maturity level, special needs and attachment to each parent.
Getting Child Custody in Ohio
When making decisions about parenting time, the Ohio court takes into account several factors. These include the wishes of the child as expressed to the court, the child's relationships with her parents, siblings and other family members, the mental and physical health of all persons involved, the parents' ability to cooperate and make joint decisions about the child's welfare and any history of child abuse, domestic violence or parental kidnapping.
The court also considers whether either parent has failed to pay child support, whether either parent has moved or is likely to move out of state, and which parent is more likely to honor and faciliate court-approved parenting time and visitation rights.