Grandparents' Visitation Rights
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Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?
Grandparent visitation rights will depend largely on three circumstances:
- The relationship between the parents and whether they are both alive.
- The relationship between the parents and the children.
- The relationship between the grandparents and the children.
As a general matter, a court will look at all of these as situations, and then based on the child’s best interest, will make a determination that the court deems to be most beneficial for the child.
These rights are not automatic, and must be petitioned for in a family law court. Fortunately, Grandparent’s fit into a special category, and thus under the right circumstances, should be able to obtain a visitation schedule. Note that these rights may be different depending on your state's laws. For example, there may be subtle differences in visitation rights depending on whether you live in California, New York, Texas, Florida, or Illinois.
What Do Courts Consider When Setting Child Visitation Rights?
As mentioned above, when finalizing visitation arrangements, courts will consider the best interests of the child.
First, a court will look at the circumstances above. For instance, if the parents are happily married and raising the child in a healthy, lawful manner, it is unlikely a court will order any visitation rights. However, if one parent has died or become incapacitated, and the surviving parent does not like the grandparents, the court may intervene and grant the grandparents visitation. Likewise, if the parents have recently separated or divorced, the grandparents may be able to step in and ensure they can still see their grandchildren regardless of the outcome of the parent’s marriage dissolution.
Next, after taking into consideration the situation facing the children, parents, and the grandparents, the court will focus first and foremost on the child’s upbringing. Courts consider a number of factors, such as:
- The child’s age, gender, mental, physical, and emotional state
- The child’s preferences
- The ability of the child to adjust between homes
- The location of the parent, or parents, with respect to the grandparents; especially if they live in different states
- The lifestyle and social habits the parents and the grandparents
- The child’s degree of attachment to either parent and to the grandparents
The general principle that courts follow in assigning visitation rights is to set up a schedule that best provides the child with stability as well as ample opportunities to make contact with the non-custodial party, which in this case would likely be grandparent. In the event the grandparent is the custodial party,
Can Grandparents Get More Visitation Rights?
As mentioned above, the grandparent’s options for getting more visitation rights will be largely determined by the situation the child is facing. As a general rule, in an effort to endorse families, states try to separate children from their parents as little as possible. Notwithstanding, below are some situations where the state may be willing to workout a visitation schedule favoring the grandparent.
- The parent is abusive.
- The parent has a history of drug or substance abuse, but is in recovery or not otherwise endangering the child to the extent to justify a more permanent custody arrangement.
- The parent, and therefore the child, is dependent on the grandparents for financial support.
Can Existing Visitation Arrangements Be Modified?
Absolutely. This is particularly true where visitation is concerned, because a court understands that things happen. In the event a change is desired or necessary, a petition will need to be made with the court.
Seeking Legal Help
Understanding visitation rights can be difficult, and not necessarily something you have to figure out on your own. Speaking with a qualified family lawyer in your area can resolve any custody, visitation, or other family law questions you may have. Your attorney will be able to write up an appropriate visitation schedule, direct you during the process and can provide you with invaluable legal advice during the process.
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Last Modified: 04-16-2015 10:09 AM PDT
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