Visitation rights are granted to noncustodial parents in situations involving divorce and child custody. The terms of visitation rights are generally outlined in a child visitation agreement, also known as a child visitation schedule. 

The purpose of this is to clarify each parent’s visitation rights, their duties, and their responsibilities to their child. When setting visitation rights, courts will always first consider the child’s best interests. From there, other factors may be considered including:

  • The age and overall well being of the child;
  • The location of each parent, along with the employment and work history of each parent;
  • The child’s living preference, if they are old enough to state such a preference; and
  • Each parent’s daily and work schedules.

State laws vary regarding who may create a child visitation agreement. However, it is not uncommon for the parent who has been granted sole custody rights to create the visitation schedule. 

If both parents are able to cooperate with each other, and can come to an agreement on child visitation, then they may submit it to the judge presiding over their case. The judge may then form the parent’s agreement into a legally binding court order.

Do Grandparents Have Rights?

Grandparents may have some rights when it comes to visitation rights. However, these rights are not as extensive as those granted to the child’s parents. Additionally, laws regarding grandparents and visitation rights vary widely from state to state. It is important to check the laws for your individual state for more detailed information, before pursuing any legal action.

Each state has specific statutes regarding granting visitation rights to grandparents. This is because it is assumed that maintaining contact with and a relationship with their grandparents is in the child’s best interest. In most states, grandparents do have limited rights to visit their grandchildren, whether or not the parents’ marriage has been legally dissolved

This also applies whether or not one or both of the child’s parents have died. However, there are about 20 states that currently have more restrictive visitation laws (this can change so be sure to check your local laws before filing a lawsuit). In those states a legal right of visitation for grandparents is only created in the event of divorce of the parents, or the death of one or both of the child’s parents.

In general, the law dictates that grandparents do not have a natural right to visitation. It is not something they are owed because they are grandparents. Grandparents who have been granted visitation rights may visit with their grandchild, but only under the supervision of the person who has been granted custody of the child. However, grandparents do have the right to request visitation rights from a family court.

How Can Grandparents Guarantee Visitation?

In most states, grandparents must convince the family court that being granted visitation rights would be in the child’s best interest, in order to get a court order for visitation. Some of the factors that courts will consider when deciding whether to grant the request include:

  • How far the parents reside from the grandparent(s);
  • The grandparents’ lifestyle, including whether they are involved in drug or alcohol abuse;
  • The child’s desire to visit with their grandparents, as well as how attached the child is to their grandparents; and
  • Whether the parents have refused to allow the child to visit with their grandparents.

If all other factors are equal, then the court is more likely to award visitation rights to a grandparent if a parent has refused to allow the grandparent to visit the child, without any good reason. In cases where the courts have granted visitation rights to a grandparent, a fixed visitation schedule is generally set.

This schedule may outline whose home the child is to reside in on what days of the week, where the child is to be dropped off and picked up, and whom the child will be with during special occasions (such as the child’s birthdays or holidays).

It is typically preferred that the parents and grandparents work out a visitation schedule on their own. However, if they cannot, then a court may intervene and impose a schedule of their own that considers the interests of parents, grandparents, and the child. 

In some states, grandparents who are facing resistance from the child’s parents in obtaining visitation rights must prove to the court that some type of harm will come to the child, if they are not allowed to visit the child.

What Can Be Done If the Court Does Not Grant Visitation Rights?

As previously mentioned, grandparents do not have an inherent right to visiting their grandchild. However, it is generally in the child’s best interest to maintain a relationship with their grandparents, especially if they have a close and healthy relationship. 

If you are not able to obtain court ordered visitation rights, then you should talk to your grandchild’s parents in an effort to work out any disagreements or misunderstandings. Family counseling may also be a beneficial option, if having another individual present while discussing such issues would be helpful.

Similarly, you might consider working with a mediator in order to work out visitation issues. These impartial third parties can be a good option whether or not you are able to obtain a court order, as going to court usually only adds more stress to your family and relationships.

Do I Need an Attorney If I am a Grandparent Seeking Child Visitation?

As a grandparent, if you are concerned about your visitation rights or would like to obtain visitation rights to see your grandchild, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable child visitation attorney

An experienced family law attorney can educate you on your state’s specific laws in relation to grandparents visitation rights, as well as assist you in requesting visitation rights. Finally, they can represent you in court as needed.