Grandparent Visitation Rights in Ohio

Grandparents have rights to visitation with their grandchildren under certain circumstances. If a child’s parents are unmarried; if the child’s parents start divorce, dissolution, or legal separation proceedings; or if one of the parents has died, a grandparent can ask the court for companionship or visitation rights if the grandparent can show he or she has an interest in the welfare of the child. The child’s parents can object, but ultimately the court will decide on grandparent visitation based on what is in the best interests of the child.
 
Sometimes a grandparent with visitation rights believes these rights are permanent. Grandparents can have their rights terminated if a parent can show a change in circumstances that makes visitation something that is not in the child’s best interest. One example of a grandparent having visitation rights taken away is when their son- or daughter-in-law (parent of the child) remarries and the child’s new stepmother or stepfather adopts the child (stepparent adoption). Under Ohio law, the grandparent becomes a “stranger,” legally, to the child. The grandparent would have no rights to visitation, or anything, with the grandchild. Perhaps he or she could still visit with the grandchild, but this would be at the discretion of the parents.
 
Grandparents’ rights to visitation with their grandchildren in Ohio are not as strong as in other states. There are states that permit visitation for grandparents with a grandchild who has been adopted, but Ohio is not one of them. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to see if I can help at julie@juliemillslaw.com.
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Collaborative Divorce: Best for All

Divorce is one of the most recognized life stressors.  According to the “Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale,” it ranks second only after death of a spouse, and is more stressful than imprisonment or death of a close family member.  These are stressors that can cause illness.

As much as many like to market divorce as “a new beginning,” I think most divorcing couples view it as an end, or at least a very impactful restructuring.  The divorce process does not help ameliorate the fight-centered, winner-and-loser view of divorce.  There is a better method to ending a marriage that is not adversarial: “collaborative divorce.”

With collaborative divorce, both parties sign a collaborative divorce agreement detailing what can be done and how it will be done.  If one party breaches the contract, then the party’s attorneys are prohibited from representing them in court.  There are other incentives to follow the agreed-upon rules.  The goal is *negotiating,* where both parties get their needs met and both parties compromise.

Divorce is a major life stressor for the children involved–watching their parents negotiate and restructure the family without acrimony should be the main motivation to seek a collaborative divorce.

For more information, read https://www.ohiobar.org/ForPublic/Resources/LawYouCanUse/Pages/LawYouCanUse-282.aspx, or email me at julie@juliemillslaw.com.

Terminal condition. Permanently unconscious state.

No one wants to think about being gravely injured in an accident, or having a terminal illness.  If you have definitive thoughts about being kept alive–or not–on artificial life support, then you should plan for what you want done or not done should you become in a “terminal condition” or “permanently unconscious state” using a living will and a healthcare power of attorney.

Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo were both women who fell into comas after differing medical events.  Both were put on artificial life support and received nutrition (feeding tube) and hydration.  Despite efforts from family members to remove artificial life support, both women lived for 10 years in a persistent vegetative state.  As with many people, neither woman put any end-of-life wishes in writing.

The stories of Quinlan and Schiavo scare people who fear living for years in a coma, kept alive by machines.  To make it known that you would not want to be kept alive artificially, you need to prepare a living will, which memorializes your end-of-life decisions in writing.  A healthcare power of attorney accompanies a living will, and provides for you to name an agent for making healthcare decisions for you.  This “agent” can make medical decisions if you are unable to make them yourself, but cannot override your end-of-life wishes in your living will.

A living will document makes your end-of-life healthcare wishes known.  A healthcare power of attorney names an agent (you choose) to enforce your living will and make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so.  These documents should be a part of your estate plan, and should be freely to distributed to the people you name, doctors, and hospitals.

What Does the Executor of my Will Do?

The person you name as the executor of your will has several duties after your death.  Generally, your executor gathers and inventories your assets, pays bills, distributes assets, pays final taxes, and closes the estate.  In Ohio, this process typically takes no longer than 13 months.

Ohio requires that the person you name as Executor be mentally competent, at least 18 years old, and bonded.  In my experience, most wills waive the bond requirement unless the executor is a resident of another state.  The executor submits the will to the probate court and seeks appointment to administer the estate.

Once the executor is appointed, he or she must take possession of and inventory the decedent’s assets, submitting a list of assets and their value to the probate court within three months after appointment as Executor.  The executor must locate all heirs and provide notice that they might be entitled to an inheritance.  The executor must notify creditors of the decedent’s death, pay bills, and collect judgments and monies owed to the decedent.  The executor is responsible for preparing and filing federal and state tax returns.  After bills are paid, the executor can distribute assets.  Finally, the executor will provide a final accounting to the court.

These duties can be affected by the value of the estate, beneficiaries contesting the will, and other factors.  An executor can be compensated for serving, typically 1-4% of the value of the estate.

Minors and Sexting: Real Ramifications

Sexting among teens is very common.  Yes, parents, at least 57% of teenagers have been asked to sext, according to one study.  The ramifications of minors’ sexting are real, can be serious, and can affect many involved.  Lesley Cross, licensed professional counselor in Worthington, Ohio, addresses sexting among children and teenagers, with my discussion of the legal severity of sexting following.

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“Minors and Sexting: Real Ramifications,” by Lesley Cross:

From the time they understand what is in their parents’ hands, they want it.

The smart phone.

And many of us are guilty (myself included) of handing over the device for entertainment value.  Kids today are more technologically savvy than many of their parents. They’re on smart phones, chrome books, iPads and tablets more each year and with this technological freedom comes real risks.

While our children can receive true benefits associated with technology (learning apps, research, hand eye coordination, etc.) there are downsides to the use of technology as well.  One of these risks is sexting (sending nude or semi nude photos via text and email.)  We want to think this is a topic that our tweens and teens don’t have to worry about but the reality is, middle and high schools nationwide are battling the sexting war.

It’s important to have conversations with children EARLY about the risks of technology.  Even if your child is not the one sending photos to others, they may be the recipient of such photos which can be just as emotionally upsetting and legally responsible. Sharing what the expectation is for phone use, discussing consequences and helping to ensure the child’s self-esteem and self-worth is grounded in more than their physical appearance is important.

Children need to have a healthy understanding of relationships and the communication between partners is part of that. Consider what you are modeling to them and what movies and shows are teaching as “the norm.”  Shows like the Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Dating Naked, etc., promote that sexuality is a power tool and privacy is not of value.  What are children observing in our homes and community?  They take it all in!

In addition to our conversations with our children, parents need to be extra involved with their children and technology.  Parents need to check the text messages, have limited access to sites, be aware of their children’s history and also be informed about Vault style apps that hide “the real” information from easy sight.  Parents are encouraged to have passwords to their children’s accounts, limit social media access and continually check the ways in which devices are being used.  If inappropriate use is discovered, consequences must occur, such as reporting to schools, removal of access to technology, counseling if appropriate, etc.

Kids sext for a number of reasons, none of which are emotionally healthy.  And what may have started as a flirtation-intended message might result in opportunities for bullying, isolation, anxiety, shaming, fear and depression. These psychological risks are not the only lasting impact of sexting as there are also legal risks associated.

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Legal ramifications of minors’ sexting:

As Lesley states, the ramifications for minors of sexting, whether they are sending or receiving sext messages, can have detrimental and long-lasting psychological effects, especially because teenagers often lack an appreciation for the consequences of not being able to “take back” a nude photo.  There are very serious legal consequences, however, that teenagers, and their families, might not fully appreciate.

If a minor (under age 18) sends a sext message, generally regarded as creating, sending, receiving or showing sexually-oriented content, including images and words, via cell phone, email, social media or other online communications, the following people could face legal consequences: the person who sent the sext, received it, forwarded it, kept it, posted it, showed it to anyone, and the minor’s parents.  Although Ohio has no specific sexting laws, charges will come under child pornography statutes, including pandering, obscenity involving a minor, child endangerment, possessing nude images of a child, and other crimes.  If a teenage girl sends a nude picture of herself (called “promoting” under the law) to her teenage boyfriend, both can be charged.  If the boyfriend forwards the picture to his classmate, the classmate can be charged.  And, since parents have ultimate control and responsibility of electronic use in the home, home computers and cell phones can be confiscated as evidence and parents can be charged, or sued for damages connected to their child’s distribution of obscenity.

Child pornography is a serious felony—the second most serious felony in Ohio.  Two teenagers near Cincinnati were charged under child pornography laws for one teenager—the girlfriend—sending nude photos to another teenager—the boyfriend.  Both have to register as sex offenders.  These are strict liability statutes and do not differentiate for sexting participants who are dating if at least one person is a minor.

Due to their feelings of being invincible, tweens and teens often do not consider consequences.  Interestingly, what grabs teenagers’ attention most is the immediate consequence of having their phone confiscated by police.  The moral and future consequences must be communicated to them clearly, consistently, and from an early age.

Published by Julie Mills, Attorney at Julie Mills Law LLC.