When parents divorce, it is important that they reach an agreement regarding custody and visitation. However, it is not only the parents who are impacted by the divorce and the relationship with the child; grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles, other family members, and siblings are often affected, too.
For older siblings, whether or not they maintain the right to visit with a child after a divorce is finalized can be confusing. Here’s an overview of the laws regarding sibling visitation in Massachusetts–
Child Custody and Visitation and Siblings’ Rights
The laws regarding a sibling’s rights in Massachusetts lack the clarity that the law pertaining to parents’ rights do. In fact, even a grandparent’s rights are more clearly defined in our state. That being said, the court is required to make a determination about a child’s custody and visitation that is within the child’s best interests. In order to make this determination, the court may consider a number of different factors, including:
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The relationship that the child maintains with other members of their home or neighborhood;
- The child’s preferences in some cases; and
- Any other factors the court finds relevant.
That being said, if children are under the age of 18, the court may insist upon a child custody arrangement that keeps children within the same home.
If a party who is over 18 wishes to have visitation rights with their sibling who is a minor, the same standards that are used in determining a grandparent’s right to visitation may be referenced. As found in Chapter 119, Section 39D of Massachusetts General Laws, these laws hold that a grandparent can be granted “reasonable visitation rights” when visitation would be in the best interests of the child.
Proving that Sibling Visitation Is within a Child’s Best Interests
Because a court will likely heavily consider the child’s best interests in making a determination about whether or not to grant an adult sibling visitation with that child, it is important that a sibling petitioning the court for visitation understand what the court is looking for. A sibling may need to provide evidence of the relationship that they maintained with the child prior to, during, or after divorce; the adult sibling’s own stability and ability to provide care for a child; and how maintaining a relationship with the sibling is beneficial for the child. In order to do this, various witnesses may be called upon, including child psychologists who can testify to the bond shared between siblings and why such a bond is important.
Our Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer Can Help
If you have any questions about seeking visitation with your minor sibling after a divorce, or if you are a parent who is worried that a court may separate siblings as a result of a child custody order, our lawyer at the office of Heather Ward Law can help. Please call our law firm directly at (617) 903-8955 or send us a message for more information today.