The role of grandparents has evolved in recent years. More and more, grandparents are becoming increasingly active in raising their grandchildren. However, grandparents' desires and interests can clash with the child's parents' rights, especially if the child's parents decide to divorce.
In these situations, grandparents may be concerned about how their time with their grandchildren will be impacted. Those who find themselves wishing to seek visitation with their grandchildren can benefit from having a basic understanding of applicable laws. Generally, the court will favor a parent's rights over a grandparent's interest; grandparents have no automatic right to see their grandchildren or restrain a parent from moving with the grandchild. Therefore, it is necessary to intervene early when a grandparent feels the grandchild's best interests could be impaired by a restriction on their visitation.
What do grandparents need to do to get visitation rights? Before a grandparent can get permission to visit grandchildren, the grandparent must be able to establish legal standing. Legal standing is defined as:
[T]he determination that you have a legal interest to participate in a court proceeding - it is the right to be heard by the court.
How does a grandparent meet this requirement? This legal requirement can be met if both of the grandchild's parents are deceased or otherwise unable to exercise custody over the child; when there is no parent to care for the child, the grandparent has legal standing to participate in a court proceeding regarding visitation of the child.
However, even if a child has two parents, the court can elect to grant legal standing to the child's grandparents if the court finds that the circumstances around the child's upbringing warrant the grandparent's involvement. The court will generally evaluate the best interest of the child in making this determination.
What is the best interest of the child? The best interest of the child is a legal standard that is used in custody determinations. Courts use a variety of factors to ascertain what is in the child's best interest. In New York, this may include a review of the parents' ability to care for the child, any mental or physical concerns of the parents as well as a review of any history of domestic violence.
What should I do if I want visitation with my grandchild? If you believe you have legal standing and would like to exercise visitation rights, it is wise to seek legal counsel. Family law proceedings are not just emotional, but are often complex. An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process, working to better ensure a more favorable outcome.