Do Grandparents Have Rights After Divorce?
Divorce is a difficult process for all parties involved, especially when there are children to consider. Divorce can also have implications for other family relationships, like grandparents. As a grandparent, you may be concerned about how the parents’ divorce or separation will impact your relationship with your grandchildren. The situation can be especially difficult where one parent may not want their child being around their grandparents for whatever reason. Therefore, you might be a caring grandparent wondering how much you’ll be able to see your grandchildren again following the divorce.
Fortunately, in the State of New York, you do have options as a grandparent. Grandparents have a legal right to request visitation when they have a substantial existing relationship with their grandchildren, when one or both parents die, or when the child’s parents have interfered with their efforts to establish or maintain a relationship. Our Garden City divorce attorneys at Fass & Greenberg are here to help you navigate this challenging area of the law and obtain the best outcome possible.
What to Know About Divorce Law
As Garden City lawyers, we follow state divorce and separation law closely. Here’s what all grandparents and parents in cases of divorce need to know:
- When it comes to grandparents seeking visitation rights, they can only do so with biological and/or adopted grandchildren. Petition for visitation cannot be filed by great-grandparents, or any other kind of relative.
- New York grandparents only have legal recourse when they already have a relationship with their grandchild and their ability to visit and/or socialize with them is being challenged or prevented by the parents’ separation.
- In order to file a petition, grandparents must be able to clearly show their familial connection to the child as well as show that their visitation is within the child’s best interest.
- Visitation is not the same as custody. Grandparents only have a chance of winning custody if the child’s legal parent passes away, abandons, or severely neglects the child. If there is a surviving parent, that parent must agree (or it must be proven) that the child living with his or her grandparents is in the child’s best interests.
How Grandparents Can Get Visitation Rights Approved
As any experienced divorce lawyer will tell you upfront, the petition has a chance of being denied should one or more of the child’s legal parents object to the visitation. Parents have a right to control their child’s upbringing and courts will often defer to their decision if found to be in the child’s best interests. During the court process, the grandparents will have the burden of establishing that they have a legal right to request visitation. When one or both of the child’s parents have died, the grandparents automatically have the right to do so. However, when the parents are alive, a Court must find that granting the grandparent visitation rights is in the best interests of the child and that there is a strong, healthy pre-existing relationship between the grandparents and the child.
In order to achieve the best possible outcome, our experienced Garden City divorce attorneys recommend that you be able to supply as much proof as possible concerning your presence in the child’s life. As you get ready to file your visitation petition, you’ll want to document the following:
- Specifics about the child’s life, including their age, address, school activities, friends, hobbies, etc.
- The grandparents’ history of being in their life, including how often they normally visit, what holidays they spend with them, or any vacations they’ve been on together. Anyone looking to prevent the award of grandparent visitation would need to show negative experiences here.
- The child’s personal wishes (if they are old enough to articulate them) about what they want and who they want to see from their family. This can go a very long way in shaping the case as a whole.
- The grandparents’ relationship(s) with the child’s parents. Positive or negative, it’s important to clearly state your side of the story. This will be your opportunity to make your voice heard.
In addition to all of the above, you’ll also want to get a mental health assessment. Preferably done for everyone involved, this will help show who is mentally fit to be in the child’s life.
Contact Your Garden City Lawyers Today
You’ll generally have to wait until after the divorce ruling (and any custody hearings) have concluded before any petition for or against visitation is filed. That said, don’t wait too long to seek legal help. Even if you’re just starting to look into divorce attorneys, it’s a good idea to start looking at your options ahead of time when it comes to grandparent visitation.
Contact Fass & Greenberg Family Lawyers in Garden City, NY today to learn more about your rights as a parent or grandparent in divorce. Even when it feels like part of your family is being torn apart, we’ll help you do what’s best for the children.