Parental Rights of a Father in Ohio

Parental Rights of a Father in Ohio

One of the most common problems that fathers face after a divorce or a breakup is having restricted access to or contact with their children. Due to the lack of knowledge about the parental rights of a father, many men have a misconception that they have lesser parenting rights as compared to the mother. However, this is not true.

Under the laws of Ohio, Courts are not allowed to decide the parenting rights of a parent based on the gender. Being a mother does not automatically grant a woman all parenting rights including custodial rights. The basis of a Court’s decision lies in the principle of ‘best interests of the child’. Traditionally, mothers have held a more favourable position is a lawsuit involving parental rights. However, Courts have increasingly realized that ‘shared parenting’ is important for a child’s all round growth and development and having a healthy relationship with both the father and the mother is important for the child’s well-being.

Establishing Paternity of an Unmarried Father in Ohio

Under the laws of Ohio, when a child is born to an unmarried couple, all parenting and other rights related to the child are automatically granted to the mother. An unmarried father has to take proactive steps to establish his paternity. The term ‘establishing paternity’ refers to the legal steps a father has to take to identify himself as the biological as well as the legal father of the child. This can be done in one of the following manners:

  1. Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit: At the time of the birth of the child, both the parents can agree that a man is the biological father of the child and decide to make him the legal father of the child. The acknowledgement is signed at the hospital and then mailed to the Central Paternity Registry.
  2. Administrative Order of Paternity: If an unmarried couple has not established paternity through any other method and decides to get genetic testing done, they can contact the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) to get the testing done. If the man is indeed the biological father of the child, then an order of paternity is issued.
  3. Court Order of Paternity: If the unmarried couple is not on talking terms, then either the child’s mother or the presumed father can file for an Order of Paternity at the Juvenile Justice Court. The Court may order a DNA test to establish paternity.

However, merely establishing parenting rights does not necessarily imply that the father has visitation or custodial rights of the child, even though he may be required to pay child support. To establish visitation and custodial rights, a separate Court Order is required.


Establishing Visitation & Custodial Rights of an Unmarried Father in Ohio

After the paternity of an unmarried man has been established and depending upon how well the unmarried couple gets along after the breakup, the visitation and custodial rights of an unmarried father in Ohio can be established in two ways:

  1. Shared Parenting Plan: The unmarried couple can mutually decide all the terms of the visitation and custody before taking any legal steps. The agreement, also referred to as ‘Agreed Parenting Plan’ is prepared by an attorney detailing all aspects related to child support, visitation schedule, decision making. The agreement is then filed with a local Juvenile Court to get the approval and signature of the judge to make it binding.


  1. Court Order: When the unmarried couple is at a conflict, and the unmarried father wants to get visitation or custodial rights, then he must file for a Court order to establish his visitation and custodial rights. Once the paternity of the father has been established, the Court must give an equal chance to both the father and the mother while deciding the rights to the child. The laws of Ohio prohibit discrimination based on gender. The decision must be based on the principle of ‘best interests of the child’. Thus, an unmarried father, after establishing his paternity has equal footing in the Court while deciding the custodial and visitation rights to the Child.


Paternity Rights of a Married Father Going Through Divorce/ Dissolution/ Legal Separation

Under the laws of Ohio, if a child is born to a married couple, then the husband is automatically treated as the biological and legal father of the child. However, this presumption can be challenged by either party. When a man is going through divorce, dissolution or legal separation, then the custodial, visitation rights and other rights related to the children cannot be based solely upon the gender of the parent. Both the parents stand on an equal footing in the Court of law and the Court will base its decision based on the principle of ‘best interests of the child’. The Court will look at various aspects such as financial capability, allegations of domestic violence while determining all the rights related to the children.