As a grandparent, you’ve probably been a central figure in your children’s life. But did you know that you may have a critical role to play when it comes to raising your children’s children? In case of a divorce and child custody dispute, grandparents do have legal rights to get visitation with their grandchildren.
If you’d like to establish visitation in a family law court, the skilled and experienced Massachusetts family lawyers at the Law Office of Heather M. Ward can help you get such rights so you can maintain your relationship with your grandkids. We’ll take a look at your case and come up with the best possible course of action to obtain your desired outcome.
Do Grandparents Have Legal Rights to Visitation?
As a grandparent, you’re legally entitled to request adequate visitation with your grandkids during or after separation or divorce, or after a parent dies.
When to Ask a Massachusetts Family Law Court for Visitation
You have the right to ask for court-ordered grandparent visitation if your grandchild’s parents:
- Are dead (could be one parent or both).
- Are divorced.
- Are living apart, but still married. The separation, however, must be court-ordered.
- Are living apart and were never married, even if the dad hasn’t signed the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and has no court ruling showing him to be the father.
What Do I Need to Prove in Court?
Massachusetts courts presume that parents are best placed to determine how their kids spend their time. A judge may only grant court-ordered visitation over one parent’s objection when it’s deemed necessary to keep your grandchild out of harm’s way. If your grandchild’s parent stops you from spending time with your grandchild, you must show that the child would need visits for the sake of their safety, health, or welfare.
When asking for visits, you must provide enough proof to show that being around the child will prevent potential or actual harm based on:
- The child’s need for emotional care after one parent dies or the parents separate.
- Your frequent contact and existing relationship with the child.
- The child’s exposure to emotional or physical abuse by one or both parents.
If you’re able to prove that being in your company would reduce or prevent the child’s significant risk of harm based upon at least one of these factors, your request may be granted.
How to Start the Process
You’ll have to file a formal written request (petition) in the court issuing visitation and custody orders regarding your grandchild. In your petition, you’re required to explain your visiting schedule, which includes the times and days you’d like to visit the child. After filing your request, you’ll need to give notice to all the parties involved, including the child’s parents and anybody else who’s seeking custody of the child.
If the court already gave you a visitation order, but the child’s parent is objecting to your visit or you want extra time, you can request the court to enforce the current order or amend it.
Contact a Massachusetts Family Lawyer Today!
If you’ve got questions about the grandparent visitation rights in Massachusetts or are searching for a reliable and experienced family law attorney, contact us today at (617) 903-8955. Be sure to set up a free consultation with our highly experienced legal team at the Law Office of Heather M. Ward.