Child custody disputes don’t only affect parents and children. They can have a major effect on grandparents too. Grandparents whose grandchildren are caught up in custody disputes can feel like they are at the mercy of often uncooperative parents when it comes to getting visitation with their grandchildren.
This can be even more complicated when the grandparents are on the side of a parent who has lost custody of their children or have limited parenting time. The remaining parent can often be hostile about visitation with the other side of the family. Thankfully in Massachusetts grandparents do have some legal avenues they can pursue in these cases.
Under certain circumstances, grandparents can seek court ordered visitation with their grandchildren. In order for this to be an option, the parents must be divorcing or living separately. If the parents live together however, there is no right to seek grandparent visitation.
In addition to divorcing or separated parents, the court must also determine grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child. The grandparents must be able to show (1) they have a significant pre-existing relationship with the child, and (2) that failure to grant visitation would significantly harm the child’s health, safety, or welfare. More than a typical grandparent-grandchild relationship must be shown and detailed to the Court to prove that a significant pre-existing relationship exists.
When compared to a parent’s right to visit with their child in a divorce scenario, a grandparent has a higher burden of proof. A detailed affidavit is required along with the petition for grandparent visitation that specifies how all the requirements for court ordered visitation are met. Due to this need, it is highly advisable that any grandparents seeking to petition a court for visitation seek out the expertise of a Massachusetts family law attorney who will prepare an affidavit and represent the grandparents before a judge.