Yes, grandparent visitation is a thing. If you are a grandparent and your grandkids are being withheld from you, then you may have a legal avenue to enforce your right to see your grandkids and have a relationship with them. However, there are some complicated requirements to get there.
First, in order to petition for grandparent visitation, you have to be a grandparent or great-grandparent to the child, and the relationship of the child’s parents has to have been severed by death, divorce or separation.
Second, if the custodial parent is withholding visitation from you, then the law presumes that what they are doing is in the child’s best interests. It is up you, the grandparent, to overcome that presumption.
You have to show two primary things: that you have a significant relationship with the child, and that visitation with the child is in his or her best interests.
- To show that you have had a significant relationship with the child, you have to show one of these things: that the child lived with you without the custodial parent for at least six months, that you were the regular caregiver to the child for at least six months, or that you had regular or frequent contact with the child for at least 12 months.
- To show that visitation with you is in the child’s best interests, you must show that you have the capacity to give the child love, affection and guidance; that the loss of their relationship with you will be harmful to them; and that you are willing to cooperate with the custodial parent if visitation is allowed.
As an example, let’s say you are the paternal grandparents of little Grace. Before her dad passed away suddenly, you saw Grace all the time. You babysat her, picked her up from preschool, took her to the zoo, and participated in holidays with her. You love her very much. But since her dad passed away, you don’t see her much anymore. In fact, her mother has decided that you remind her too much of Grace’s dad and she doesn’t want you to see Grace at all. You are devastated, and after months of asking to see her and being denied, you finally decide it’s time to talk to a lawyer.
Your lawyer helps you file a petition for grandparent visitation. You show that you have a significant relationship with Grace because you had frequent contact with her for over a year. You state that the relationship of her parents was severed by her dad’s death. You prove to the judge that you can give Grace love, affection and guidance, and that the loss of her relationship with you will harm her in the long run. But you agree that you will work with her mother if visitation is allowed. In this case, your petition is likely to be granted.
A significant case came down last year called Drinkwitz v. Drinkwitz that illustrates how complicated some of these factors can be. In that case, the grandparents had seen the grandchildren quite a bit before the parents’ divorce. After the divorce, they saw them less but the mother still allowed them to see the children. They sued for visitation because they wanted a specific schedule that would guarantee them a minimum about of time with the kids. The court held that grandparent visitation was not appropriate in this situation because the mother was still allowing them to see the grandchildren. There was not a “loss” of the grandparents’ relationship with them.
Grandparent visitation can be even more complicated than your average custody case. If you are a grandparent who would like to enforce your right to visitation, schedule a free consultation with Leslie so that she can assess your specific situation.