Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?
As grandparents, you want what’s best for your grandchildren, including your grandchildren having the ability to know and spend time with non-custodial grandparents. However, while this may be what you desire it is not necessarily what’s determined by the legal system. Below, the experienced family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss the legal steps you’ll want to take when seeking visitation with your grandchildren.
Start the Conversation
Depending on the prior relationship, a custodial parent may choose to keep their child’s grandparents involved in their child’s life. Before pursuing legal action to petition the court for visitation with your grandchild, it may make sense to reach out to your grandchild’s parents to see what kind of access they are agreeable to their child having with you. For example: Does your grandchild’s custodial parent want you around for the holidays? Birthdays? Once a month? Having this discussion first to determine if and when you need to request anything further can sometimes avoid needing to file with the court.
Request Court-Ordered Visitation
Maryland law allows grandparents to petition the court for visitation rights (and even custody) at any time. Unfortunately, if a custodial parent objects it is unlikely that the petition will be successful unless the grandparent can show that they meet the criteria to be considered a de facto parent, the lack of grandparent visitation will have a harmful effect on the child, the visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interest and/or that the child’s parents are unfit to have custody of the child.
Shoulder the Burden of Proof
The current laws generally favor the child’s parents when determining custody for children. Therefore, the burden of proof to show that custody or visitation with a grandparent is actually what is in the best interest of the child is on the grandparents who request the alternative visitation schedule.
Factors that could persuade the court that exceptional circumstances exist to award custody or visitation to a grandparent in favor of the parents include if:
- The parent has neglected the child by manifesting such indifference to the child’s welfare that it reflects a lack of intent or an inability to discharge his or her parental duties.
- The parent has abandoned the child.
- There is evidence that the parent inflicted or allowed another person to inflict physical or mental injury on the child, including, but not limited to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
- The parent suffers from an emotional or mental illness that has a detrimental impact on the parent’s ability to care for and provide for the child.
- The parent otherwise demonstrates a renunciation of his or her duties to care and provide for the child. The parent has engaged in behavior or conduct that is detrimental to the child’s welfare.
If Your Grandchild is Adopted
Even if you are successful in receiving court-ordered visitation there may be other obstacles to getting to spend time with your grandchild. If your grandchild is adopted by new parents, unless the new adoptive parents agree to continue the existing visitation schedule your grandparent’s visitation rights will be terminated.
Do Not Agree to Anything Before Consulting an Attorney
Whether it’s visitation or custody, do not agree to anything before consulting with your own attorney. If you and your grandchild’s family are unable to agree on how to divide the child’s time, the court may decide in favor of the custodial parent. It is important to speak with an attorney, such as the family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law, so they can provide you with legal guidance to try to ensure your best outcome.
Speak To An Experienced Family Law Attorney At Rodier Family Law
Family separation can be an emotional time. At Rodier Family Law, we want to guide you in these important matters that will affect your future. If you are considering filing for court-ordered visitation and want to ensure your rights are protected, contact our office to schedule a one-hour consultation and speak to an experienced attorney at (410) 803-1839.