Robert G. Smith, PLLC

An overview of grandparent visitation rights

New York residents may be interested in some of the legal issues surrounding grandparents' visitation rights. Legal precedent dictates that these rights may be at the parents' discretion.

The Supreme Court has held that there is no right to visitation for a grandparent if the custodial parent will not allow it, barring special circumstances regarding the individual needs of the child. Examples of these special situations include when a grandparent has previously fulfilled the role of parent, the non-custodial parent is on active military duty and wishes the grandparent to have visitation, or there is an especially close relationship between the child and the grandparent. Generally, however, courts will defer to the parent in how they wish to raise their child. If this includes limiting or eliminating grandparent visits, courts will generally not overturn the parent's decision.

One aspect of the dispute that will not help a grandparent's case for visitation is being antagonistic with the custodial parent. While some antagonism may be expected given the nature of the situation, if the court believes that the fighting can negatively affect the child it may hold this against the grandparent. For instance, if the grandparent is saying things to the child that harm the parent-child relationship, this may result in lost visitation. Some recommend the assistance of a family therapist or alternative dispute resolution prior to bringing such a case before the courts.

Understanding the legal issues surrounding grandparents' rights can be made easier through consulting with an attorney who has family law experience. The attorney may be able to assist in convincing the court that visitation would be in the best interests of the grandchild.

Source: American Bar Association, "Obtaining Visitation With or Custody Of Grandchildren", Jeff Atkinson, accessed on March 17, 2015

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