There is a special relationship between grandchildren and grandparents, but this special bond could be threatened by certain unfortunate circumstances. When the worst happens and you fear that you will soon lose contact with your grandchildren, you should know that in most locations your rights to spend time with them are legally protected. Fortunately, family courts understand the value that a grandchild-grandparent relationship can bring, especially for families in crisis. Read on for a better understanding of gaining visitation privileges for a grandparent.
Situations that could call for legal visitation orders.
It must be stated upfront that if your grandchild is living in a healthy, stable environment your chances of gaining visitation against the parent's wishes are slim. However, a less-than-desirable living situation for the child could very well prompt a judge to issue a visitation order. If your grandchild appears to be involved in any of the following situations, you may have a claim for visitation:
- An uncooperative and/or adversarial relationship between the custodial parent and the grandparents after a divorce.
- An uncooperative and/or adversarial relationship between the surviving parent and the grandparents after the death of a parent.
- An uncooperative and/or adversarial relationship between a parent and grandparents after the incarceration or incapacity of one parent (coma, institutionalized for mental reasons, etc)
Standards used by the judge to determine grand-parental worthiness.
The key determination used by family court judges, regardless of the circumstances, is the best interest of the child. You may want to take a moment and do some soul-searching before you file for a visitation hearing request and ensure that your motivations for seeking visitation are based solely on that determination. Factors considered by the judge might be:
- The child's opinion, if they are old enough for questioning and able to communicate their desires.
- The health of the grandparent. While your intentions are undoubtedly heartfelt, grandparents who are in poor health may pose an issue for the judge.
- The health of the child, particularly if the child has specific mental or physical health issues.
- The grandparent-grandchild relationship. Have you spent much time with your grandchild (if you have been allowed to do so)?
- The relative safety and location of the grandparent's home. Proximity to the custodial parent is key, since major travel to comply with visitation could be disruptive and inconvenient.
As a grandparent, it can be heartrending to be denied a chance to spend time with your grandchild. However, it should be comforting to know that if the need arises, you can take legal action to preserve that special relationship. Contact a family law attorney for more information about a grandparent's right to visitation.