Child visitation laws are traditionally established for non-custodial parents to spend time with their children. In Washington, D.C., there is no specific statute that allows grandparents to go to court to obtain visitation with their grandchildren.
Yes. Grandparents can file a court petition for visitation the same way that a non-custodial parent can.
No. In a typical child visitation case, the court looks at whether visitation is in the best interest of the child. When determining the child’s best interest, the court considers factors such as:
- The child’s background and home life
- The child’s personal preferences if the child is mature enough to express their opinion
- Maturity and health of each parent
- Whether the child has any siblings
- Whether there is an established relationship between the grandparents and the child
The courts in Washington, D.C. also rely on the Troxel v. Granville case to determine the extent of a grandparent’s visitation rights. The opinion for the Troxel v. Granville case presumes that a child’s parents are “fit” to make decisions regarding visitation. It also presumes parents act in their child’s best interest, even if they are prohibiting grandparent-grandchild visitation.
Overcoming this presumption involves showing the court that the parent is not fit to make grandparent-grandchild visitation decisions.
The first part of the process is filing a visitation petition in court. An attorney will include the legal reasons as to why a grandparent is seeking visitation. The grandparents and parents may be asked to find a solution outside of court. If the situation is resolved outside of court, the case will not move forward and will be dismissed. However, it is important to talk with an attorney to fully understand the process.
A Washington, D.C. attorney will instruct you on how to proceed with your grandparent visitation petition in the D.C. courts based on your situation. It is highly recommended that you contact an attorney about your grandparent visitation rights if you are being denied an opportunity to spend time with your grandchildren.