Visitation For Grandparents: What Are Your Rights?

If you are a grandparent who has become concerned about losing contact with your grandchild, you should know that most states have rules and guidelines in place for ensuring that you are able to continue to have a relationship with your grandchild. Grandparents fill an important need when it comes to making sure that children are happy, safe and healthy, and under certain circumstances grandparents have the right to take legal steps to ensure visitation time. Read on to learn more about grand-parenting visitation rights.

Why Would A Grandparent Seek Visitation?

Family court judges ordinarily won't hear cases where the grandparent is seeking formal visitation arrangements if the child lives in a stable environment with two parents present. Though state law can vary, every state takes the best interest of the child into account when making decisions about all custody, visitation, support, adoption, and any other issues that relate to minor children. When a grandparent can show, through a court petition, that the child is not in an ideal situation, the judge may hear the case for visitation. Common issues that may prompt a hearing include grandparents who are experiencing the following:

  • A relationship with the custodial parent (after divorce) that is uncooperative and adversarial.
  • A relationship with the only living parent (after the other parent's death) that is uncooperative and adversarial.
  • A situation where one parent is incarcerated or has a reduced capacity (mental illness, drug abuse, severe illnesses requiring long-term hospitalization, etc) and the other parent is being uncooperative with attempts to visit the child.

What Does The Judge Look At?

If the judge agrees that the situation calls for an evaluation of the visitation arrangements, the judge will look at the following issues to ensure that the best interests of the child is being taken into consideration.

  • The wishes and opinion of the child, if they are old enough to be interviewed.
  • Mental and physical health status of the child.
  • The relationship between the child and the grandparent, such as how much time they have already spent together.
  • The grandparent's home location, which could cause a problem if extensive travel were required to fulfill the visitation.
  • The health of the grandparent.
  • The home of the grandparent, in regard to safety, health and social and recreational opportunities.

A a grandparent, you likely never imagined that you would be challenging the fitness of one of your grandchild's parents, but if circumstances call for you to take action, you should realize that you do have legal standing for requesting visitation. Consult with a family law attorney, like Margit M. Hicks, PA Attorney at Law, for more information about how to seek grandparent visitation in your state.