Grandparents rights are a relatively new concept, and are still changing as we work to balance the rights of the parents to raise their children with what is in the best interest of the child. More often than not, when a grandparent wants to file for grandparents rights, they do so because they disagree with the way the parents are rearing their children, but this is not a valid reason to file. If you feel, however, that maintaining your prior relationship with your grandchild is in the best interest of the child, and your circumstances fit the required guidelines, then you may be able to file for grandparents rights:
In the event that your child -- a parent to your grandchild -- passes away, and the surviving parent takes full custody and denies or limits your visits with the child, you may be able to file for grandparents rights. In this situation, you would need to prove that you maintained a relationship with the grandchild prior to the parent's death; you were a caregiver for the child, or the child lived with you in the year prior to the death; and that dissolving the relationship with your grandchild would not be in the best interest of the child.
If your child is in the process of divorcing his or her spouse, you may be able to file a motion in the proceedings to get temporary or permanent visitation rights during and after the divorce. Because your grandchild's time will now be split between two parents, the time you will get to spend with them will decrease, and this is something that you should be aware of and accept.
To file for grandparents rights and get visitation in this situation, you will need to demonstrate that you have an extensive relationship with the child and have spent a significant amount of time with him or her prior to the divorce. You likely won't get much more than a weekend or two a month, because most of the child's time should be divided between the parents, especially when the grandchild is still learning to adapt to their parents no longer being together. Time will likely be taken away from the custodial parent, so make sure you aren't trying to interfere with the visitation schedule of the other parent.
File a Motion to Intervene in the parents' divorce case. You can do this by calling the courthouse where the divorce was filed and getting the docket number and case information so that you can file your motion correctly. The motion will then be heard by a judge, and one or both parents may be present at the hearing to either contest or support the motion. You will need to bring evidence to back up your motion to demonstrate that you have established a relationship with your grandchild, and terminating that relationship would not be in the child's best interest.
File a Petition for Grandparent Visitation if a parent has passed away. A petition is very similar to a complaint, which initiates a lawsuit. The difference between a complaint and a petition is that a complaint seeks to compensate the filing party for damages of some sort, while a petition seeks to force someone to do something or stop doing something. In this case, you want to force the parents to allow you visitation rights with the child. The case will then continue the same way a normal court case would, with a discovery phase where either party can request documents for evidence, and a court date where both parties will appear in front of the judge to argue their sides of the matter.
Come to court prepared. Bring any evidence you have to show that you had a prior relationship with the grandchild and that cutting off that relationship is not in the child's best interest. Show that the parents are being spiteful or unreasonable by cutting off communication between you and the child. If the judge agrees with your side of the story, a visitation schedule will be put into place.
- Parents have a constitutional right to raise their children the way they think is best, while grandparents have no constitutional rights to their grandchildren. Grandparents do not have guaranteed visitation rights, and filing for grandparents rights because you disagree with the way the child is being raised or disagree with the parents' decision to end contact with the grandchild are not legitimate reasons to file -- your case will probably be dismissed. If you are in a situation where the parents do not want you to see their child, you are better off trying to reestablish a relationship with the parents, find out why they do not want you to see the child, and change or fix any issues that are preventing you from being able to see him or her.
- If you were a significant part of your grandchild's life before your child's death, or your grandchild lived with you for any period of time, you will likely be able to win visitation rights with your grandchild. Typical visitation rights for grandparents in this situation are the same as divorced parents, every other weekend and a week in the summer, as well as some holidays or birthdays, but the amount of visitation you will receive depends very heavily on the amount of time you spent with your grandchild previous to the death of his or her parent.
- After 6 months to a year, if you still feel the amount of time you have received is not enough, you can go back to court and apply for more visitation time. You will have an easier time proving your case, especially if you have kept up with every single day and weekend that you were to receive the child.
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