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In general, grandparents hold certain visitation rights that they can exercise unless the child’s parent(s) object. However, one of the following circumstances must occur in order for the court to consider a grandparent’s request for visitation:
- the child's parent is deceased;
- the child's parents are divorced, separated, or were never legally married;
- the child's parent has been missing for 6 months or more;
- a court in another state has ordered grandparent visitation;
- the child lived in the grandparent's home for at least 12 months and was removed from the home by their parents; or
- the child and grandparent have maintained a significant bond for at least 12 months and breaking this grandparent-grandchild relationship will cause harm to the child.
To formally obtain visitation with a grandchild, a grandparent has the burden of proving one of the above factors. Note that to prove “harm” in the case of the last factor, the grandparent must demonstrate that the child will experience significant emotional harm or loss if the relationship is broken or the child will otherwise experience danger or risk of substantial harm.
Can Grandparents Obtain Custody?
A grandparent may seek custody of their grandchild in the same scenarios as above for visitation. That is, a grandparent can file a petition for custody if the child’s parents have divorced or are deceased or if the child has been abandoned by their parents or abused or neglected. Note that a grandparent cannot request custody unless the grandchild's parents are unfit or unable to care for the child. A judge will also consider the following when making a decision:
- the child's best interests;
- the grandparent's ability to meet the child's needs; and
- factors showcasing parental unfitness.
Grandparent custody and visitation can be confusing, especially when requests are granted based on the specific situation. It is best to work with an attorney on your grandparent visitation or custody case, as you will need to prove certain elements in order for your request to be considered. Our team at Stacey and Ballew will take a down-to-earth approach and listen attentively to your needs and goals for the case. Let’s ensure your grandchild is in good, safe hands.
Contact Stacey and Ballew online for a free initial consultation to discuss your legal options as grandparents.