Obtaining Or Defending Against Petitions For Grandparent Visitation
First, the grandparent must have legal standing to pursue a claim for visitation. If the parents of a minor child are still married and living together, then a grandparent has no enforceable rights of visitation. However, if the parents of the minor child are divorced, living apart or deceased, a grandparent does have the right to seek reasonable visitation rights.
Is Grandparent Visitation In The Child’s Best Interests?
Once it is determined that a grandparent has legal standing to seek visitation, he/she must prove that visitation would be in the child’s best interests. In determining the best interests of a child, the court must give “presumptive validity” to a fit parent’s decision concerning grandparent visitation. In other words, if a fit parent does not wish for a grandparent to have visitation, the court must give that choice significant weight. This leaves the grandparent with the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the denial of the court to grant visitation would cause the child significant harm by adversely affecting the child’s health, safety or welfare.
When showing “significant harm”, there is a presumption that the grandparent had a significant, preexisting relationship with the child (which would thus cause the child significant harm if it were to be terminated.) If there was no such relationship present, then the grandparent must show otherwise that the child would suffer significant harm (i.e. showing that the child is being or has been exposed to domestic violence and would benefit from having a grandparent present who can monitor the child’s well-being.)
Seeking and obtaining grandparent’s visitation is difficult and should be pursued – if possible – with the assistance of an attorney. Similarly, if a parent or guardian is defending his/herself against a claim for visitation brought by a grandparent, it would be beneficial to seek professional guidance.
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We can help with your concerns and questions about grandparents’ rights. Please call 508-986-9406 or send our firm an email to schedule an initial appointment to discuss your legal options to visit with your grandchildren.