Grandparents — take heart. A new statute has recently been passed allowing grandparent visitation rights under certain circumstances.
For years, Grandparents had no visitation rights.
This new statute is a small step forward, but it does provide some relief when the parents are deceased, missing, or are in a persistent vegetative state. It covers both grandparents and great grandparents, and defines “missing” as meaning the whereabouts of that parent have not been known for at least 90 days.
The new statute allows grandparent visitation where one parent has died, and the surviving parent poses a substantial threat of harm to the child’s health or welfare. There must be a showing that the surviving parent is unfit, which is a similar standard used for grandparents who seek temporary custody of their grandchildren.
The visitation awarded is based on similar things courts consider in deciding custody, or what’s now called parenting time. This includes the love, affection, and emotional ties between the child and grandparent. It also includes the length of time the grandparents have had a relationship with the child, and the extent to which the grandparent has been helping care for the child.
There must also be proof that the grandparent visitation will not harm the child’s relationship with the other parent. The gist of this inquiry is to ensure the grandparent visitation does not interfere with a few basic things. This includes the child’s routine, parental authority, and whether the grandparent visitation undermines the parent’s role with the child.
Grandparent visitation rights still have a long way to go.
But this is a good first step towards reestablishing grandparent visitation rights, which were found to be unconstitutional if they’re too broad. All too often we have seen good grandparents who want to help, but who have no legal recourse. They help consistently with their grandchildren, but are always worried that the parent(s) will show up and take the child. The new grandparent visitation statute is limited, but it provides relief where once there was none.