When two unmarried people, same-sex or opposite-sex, have a child together, whether it is natural or through adoption, and the relationship falls apart, what happens? Does the non-biological parent or co-parent have custody rights?
Ohio does not recognize a parent’s attempt to enter into a statutory “shared parenting” arrangement with a nonparent partner because the nonparent does not fall within the definition of “parent” under the current statutes. However, a parent may voluntarily share with a nonparent the care, custody, and control of his or her child through a valid shared parenting agreement.
Ohio Revised Code #2151.23(A)(2) states that a shared-custody agreement recognizes the general principle that a parent can grant custody rights to a nonparent and will be bound by the agreement.
Preparing a Co-Parent Agreement or a Custody Agreement may help. A Co-Parenting Agreement basically states that although only one of you is the legal parent, both of you consider yourselves equal co-parents with shared rights and responsibilities to care for the child. This agreement can specify how a couple will share custody in the event of a break-up.
A Custody Agreement can provide a non-legal parent greater control in the case of a breakup. It is compared to a prenuptial agreement where it lists ahead of time how you both agree to conduct yourself during the relationship.
Ohio law does not require a parent to create a written contract and has recognized that a parent may enter into a shared custody agreement through words and conduct alone. However, a written agreement will demonstrate the best evidence of the parent’s intention to share custody. Although the courts are not required to uphold such agreements, they will consider what is in the best interest of the child.
Since all legal custody issues between a parent (natural or adopted) and a nonparent must be brought to the juvenile court, it is best to hire an attorney with the experience to obtain your rights as a parent or non-traditional parent. This same line of legal reasoning may also be applied to a step-parent who is divorcing the biological parent or any other non-biological parent who has established a parent-child relationship with a minor child.