Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?

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The impact of divorce is often felt not just by the couple and their children, but also by extended family members. When parents split up, the relationship between children and other family members may be severed. Further, it is not unusual for a custodial parent to try to restrict interactions between children and the parents of the noncustodial parent. This can have a devastating effect on both sides. While grandparents do not have automatic rights to visitation, they may be granted visitation by a court if they can meet the appropriate legal requirements.

New York laws allow grandparents to petition a court for visitation where:

  • at least one of the child’s parents is deceased, or
  • certain conditions exist allowing a court to intervene in equity.

In demonstrating circumstances where equity would require intervention, the grandparents must prove they had an existing prior relationship with their grandchild or demonstrate that the child’s parent(s) have prevented them from establishing a prior relationship. Furthermore, the grandparents have the burden of proving that it is in the best interests of the child to allow them rights of visitation.

The factors considered by the court to determine whether a grandparent visitation is in the best interests of the child include:

  • the age and wishes of the child
  • the emotional and physical needs of the child
  • whether the child lived with the grandparents previously
  • the parent’s reasons for limiting or restricting the grandparent’s visitation privileges
  • whether there is a history of conflict between the parents and grandparents that may negatively affect the child
  • whether the parents behave in ways that may negatively affect the child (drug use, incarceration, neglect, mental illness, etc.)
  • the home environment; and
  • other considerations.

While the parent’s preferences are given great weight, they are balanced against the best interests of the child.

Notably, New York only allows biological or adoptive grandparents to petition for visitation. Great grandparents, step-grandparents, and other extended family members may not request visitation even if they have a close relationship with the child.

If you are a grandparent who is being denied access to your grandchild or a parent who objects to grandparent visitation, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you find the best resolution of your visitation issues.

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