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OH teen’s visitation request and right to take part in hearings denied

An unusual Ohio case highlights minors’ rights during custody decisions and the steps divorcing parents should take to avoid burdening their children.

It is not uncommon for children with divorcing or divorced parents in Columbus, Ohio, to feel that their own needs and wishes are being overlooked. The best interests of children are a primary concern for many parents and a top consideration during child custody decisions, but sometimes, custody battles end with outcomes that are less than ideal.

A case recently heard before the Ohio Supreme Court clarified the rights of children during such custody decisions. The case also shed light on actions that parents should avoid during or after a divorce if they are concerned about the well-being of their children.

Child asked that visitation rights be denied

The case involved parents who divorced in 2001 when their daughter was 5 years old, according to the Toledo Blade. During the divorce proceedings, the child's Russian mother took her out of the country. After the two returned to the U.S., the child's American father ran off with the child, taking her to several states and Costa Rica.

After the father and daughter returned to the U.S., the divorce was finalized, and the mother and daughter relocated to Moscow. Then, the girl was abducted and taken to Paris to meet with her father. Eventually, all three returned to the U.S., where a court awarded the mother primary custody. The father was given visitation rights, or parenting time.

In 2009, the father petitioned an Ottawa County court for unsupervised visitation rights. The daughter, who was 13, asked that the court terminate visitation and allow her to be present during courtroom proceedings. The court granted her attorney a seat but declined to allow the daughter to attend, and ultimately, the court granted the father visitation.

The daughter appealed the decision, and the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments in October 2013, when the daughter was 17. The court recently upheld both parts of the juvenile court's decision. The court found that the parenting time was in the daughter's best interests, despite her request, and that she did not have an inherent right to be present in court. A dissenting justice expressed the opinion that the child's rights were forgotten in the face of the parents' contentious separation.

This case was unusual, and the actions of the parents were extreme. However, the case serves to remind other divorcing Ohio parents of the importance of setting aside personal issues and keeping the child's best interests in mind, both during and after the divorce.

Reducing the impact of divorce on children

There are several things parents can do to make divorce a less traumatic experience for their children, according to the Huffington Post. Parents should focus on doing the following things:

  • Keep the kids out of parental conflicts as much as possible, instead of using them as pawns.
  • Focus on means of co-parenting and dividing time fairly, rather than fighting for exclusive control.
  • Restore stability in the child's life by establishing predictable schedules and routines.
  • Make it easy for the child to contact the other parent and know when the next scheduled visit is.

Parents who take these simple steps may enjoy a better long-term relationship with their children and a healthier separation.

Parents with concerns about winning custody or creating an appropriate parenting plan should consider meeting with a family law attorney. An attorney can help parents understand their legal options and arrive at an arrangement that will truly be best for the child.

Keywords: divorce, custody, visitation

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