Before the 1960’s when divorce was low and families weren’t spread out across the country or even globally, the concept of grandparents rights was unheard of. Today, although the law is still evolving, grandparents have more rights than ever to have access to their beloved grandchildren.
Divorce is hard for everyone, including extended family members such as grandparents who worry if they will be able to continue to have contact with their grandchildren. Perhaps, there is no case of divorce but one of the grandchildren’s parents has threatened not to allow them to see their grandchildren anymore.
Whichever is the case, in New York, there are laws in place that allow grandparent’s rights to their grandchildren.
In New York, a biological or adoptive direct grandparent can petition the court for ordered visitation when:
Unfortunately, most state laws still don’t provide the ability to sue for visitation if you are a great-grandparent or other relative.
The court’s only obligation and interest is what is in the best interest of the child. It has been proven that relationships with extended family, especially with grandparents, is healthy for a child and provides them with a sense of well-being and connection. In times of divorce, grandparents can provide children with calm and stability which might be lacking for a child in such a stressful time.¹
Grandparents provide unconditional love and wisdom and the court recognizes the importance of their role in the family unit.
In order to sue for visitation in court, a grandparent has the burden of proof or standing to show the court why they should have visitation rights, even though the courts understand the beneficial relationships between grandparents and grandchildren. You first establish legal grounds by fulfilling the requirement of one of the three stipulations.
Although courts must weigh a parent’s right to determine who gets access to their children, the child’s best interests always trumps all in the eyes of the court.
Now that you’ve fulfilled the grounds to sue, you must show that your presence is best for the child. Showing that your grandchild benefits most by having regular contact with you will depend on many factors. Some of the things which can help your case include:
Congress passed a resolution in 1983 to create uniform statutes in regards to grandparent visitation which provided for privileges to visit grandchildren in the event of death, divorce, separation or re-marriage, however, this resolution was never adopted.
The case of Troxel vs. Granville,² heard by the supreme court in 2000, was the first case to address the issue of grandparents rights and the supreme court justice’s were divided. Although the term grandparents was not specifically used, the case was in regards to a third-party visitation statute in Washington State. Thus began the evolution of grandparent rights which bring us to the present laws.
It is not simple or without stress to sue for visitation with your grandchildren but neither is it impossible. A New York City lawyer who understands Family Law and the nature of the relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren can advise you of your options, the possible outcome or any appeals which might be needed to win your visitation request.
The law recognizes the best interests of the child and a reasonable parent’s right to determine their child’s contacts, however, an experienced lawyer has resources and knowledge in the law and can assist their clients in gaining visitation with their grandchildren
¹DO GRANDPARENTS MATTER?, Family Matters Institute (2009), http://uhra.herts.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/2299/14255/906870.pdf;sequence=2.
²United States Supreme Court TROXEL et vir. v. GRANVILLE, (2000) No. 99-138, United States Supreme Court TROXEL et vir. v. GRANVILLE, (2000) No. 99-138 (2005), http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/530/57.html (last visited Nov 2017).
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