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Court may award ‘grandparenting’ time in some cases

Dear Clients and Friends,

Historically, grandparents had no right to demand visitation with their grandchildren in the event of the separation, divorce or death of a parent. This meant that if a parent or guardian sought to prevent their child from having further contact with grandparents after such an event, the grandparent would generally have no recourse. Today however, every state, including California, has a grandparent visitation law that gives grandparents the right to petition for visitation. While a court is not obligated to honor the grandparents’ wishes, grandparents can and do prevail under the right circumstances.

Take for example, a recent Indiana case. The mother of an 18-month old child, “J.I.,” agreed that the child’s maternal aunt could adopt her after child welfare authorities deemed the baby a “child in need of services” because of the mother’s drug problems. J.I.’s paternal grandparents intervened, petitioning for a visitation order. A trial court judge denied the petition, finding that any decision regarding grandparent visitation was up to the aunt to make.

But the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, pointing out that no adoption had occurred yet. Meaning that the aunt had no legal right to restrict visitation at that point, and that the child had already formed meaningful bonds with the grandparents and depriving her of contact with them would not be in her best interest.

Similarly, the Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that a deceased father’s parents were entitled to grandparenting time with his minor daughter. In that instance the court found that the child’s mother, who was denying the grandparents access to the child, was herself an unfit parent based on her inability to provide for the child’s material and emotional needs following the father’s death. Accordingly, the court found that the immediate loss of contact with the child’s paternal grandparents posed a “substantial likelihood” of future emotional and mental harm.

We continue to invite your no-obligation inquiries on all family law matters.



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