Ohio Supreme Court Grants Visitation to Grandparents

Ohio's highest court has granted visitation rights to two grandparents over the objections of the child's father, bucking a recent trend of allowing parents greater say in determining visitation rights.

Renee Harrold and Brian Collier had a daughter, Brittany, but were not married. Ms. Harrold and Brittany lived with Ms. Harrold's parents, and Mr. Collier had visitation rights. When Brittany was two, her mother died, and her grandparents were given temporary custody of the child. Mr. Collier was eventually granted custody. When he refused to allow the grandparents to visit Brittany, they asked the court for visitation rights.

Under Ohio law, a court can grant visitation rights to grandparents of a child born to an unwed mother if it is in the "best interest of the child." Mr. Collier claimed that this law was unconstitutional in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that had struck down a Washington State law that permitted a judge to grant grandparents visitation with a grandchild over a parent's objections. Troxel v. Granville (530 U.S. 57, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49 (2000)). Since the decision in Troxel, courts in Alabama, Michigan, and Connecticut, among others, have found their state statutes unconstitutional or have given parents more discretion in visitation decisions.

But on October 10 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Collier and found that its state law was constitutional. The Ohio court distinguished between the Washington statute in Troxel, which allowed any person to petition for visitation, and the Ohio statute, which only applied when a child was born to an unwed mother and that limited visitation to grandparents and relatives. The court held that, as the U.S. Supreme Court outlined in Troxel, the wishes of the child's parents should be given preference in such disputes, but that the Ohio statute takes that preference into account while focusing on the child's best interest.

To download the full case, Harrold v. Collier, in PDF format click here.
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For more on grandparent visitation, click here.