Court affirms rights of adults with disabilities in domestic relations situations
The Tenth District Court of Appeals announced an important decision last week affirming the rights of adults with disabilities to be treated the same as people without disabilities. In this case, the parents of a 38-year-old adult with a disability were involved in divorce proceedings, and the domestic relations court, reasoning that the adult was essentially a child merely because of his disability, issued orders granting child support and custody to one parent and visitation rights to the other. Both parents appealed the domestic relations court's orders.
The Ohio Legal Rights Service (LRS) filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the adult with a disability, arguing that state law did not provide the lower court with authority to make any visitation or custody orders regarding the adult because he was no longer a minor and that he should not be treated differently simply because he has a disability. Furthermore, LRS asserted that the adult had constitutional rights to determine the nature and extent of his relationship with his parents, free of any judicial coercion.
The Tenth District reversed the domestic relations court's decision. It agreed that, because the individual is an adult, the domestic relations court could not subject him to visitation or custody orders. His disability was not relevant. It also affirmed an earlier decision on the issue of child support, concluding that because the adult had already turned 18 at the time the divorce proceedings were initiated, the domestic relations court did not have jurisdiction to order child support.
Other appellate districts in Ohio have held that jurisdiction to order child support for an adult with a disability may be proper, regardless of the adult's age at the time proceedings began. No other appellate district had analyzed the issue of jurisdiction for visitation and custody orders for an adult with a disability prior to this case.
Read the decision: Geygan v. Geygan (PDF file)
To view and print PDF documents, you need to have Adobe® Reader®, a free software program, installed on your computer. Download Adobe® Reader®