When a parent or nonparent is granted child custody, they are given the responsibility care for the child’s needs and the right to make certain decisions regarding the child’s well being. Generally, biological parents are inherently granted the rights to make decisions related to raising their children. However, under certain circumstances the court may be asked to step in and determine who should have rights over a child. Some examples of these circumstances include divorce, adoption, and children removed from an unsafe home.

What Is Child Visitation?

If you do not have physical custody of the child, visitation rights allow you to visit with the child under the supervision of the legal guardian. Visitation differs from custody in that at no time may you be granted control of the child.

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Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?

Grandparents do not inherently have rights to visitation. These rights must be petitioned for in a family court. Fortunately, grandparents 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.

Grandparent visitation rights will depend largely on three circumstances:

  1. The relationship between the parents and whether they are both alive;
  2. The relationship between the parents and the children; and/or
  3. The relationship between the grandparents and the children.

The court will look at each of these relationships and then determine whether visitation rights are in the best interest of the child. Generally, this means the court will attempt to provide the child with the situation that will grant the child the most stability. In making this decision, the court will take a number of factors, including:

  • 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

How Do I File for Full Custody Rights for My Grandchild?

The court determines the circumstances in which a grandparent may file a petition for full custody of a grandchild. These circumstances require that:

  • Parental consent or a court order allowed the legal care relationship between the grandparent and the child;
  • The parental role is assumed by the grandparent for one year or the grandparent has a reasonable belief that the child lacks proper parental care;
  • The child's best interest is served if placed in the grandparent's custody; and
  • The court believes the grandparent has genuine care for the child's welfare.

Do I Need to Consult an Attorney about Grandparents' Visitation and Custody?

Understanding visitation rights can be difficult, and not necessarily something you have to figure out on your own. Speaking with a qualified child custody attorney 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 advocate for you in court if necessary.