Divorces can be complicated and tricky situations to navigate. While most people understand that the separating couple must make custody and visitation arrangements, grandparents are often forgotten in the process. Grandparents’ rights vary from state to state, and in Massachusetts, pursuing visitation rights with your grandkids can be a challenge. Fortunately, a skilled family lawyer might be able to help.
Grandparents do not have the right to file for visitation of grandchildren who are living in an intact marriage. However, there are some scenarios in which grandparents can pursue a court order allowing visitation. If the parents were divorced or legally separated, or if one or both parents are deceased, grandparents may have rights to visitation. Additionally, if the child was born out of wedlock, visitation for grandparents may be available.
Best Interests of the Child and the Harm Standard
Similar to parental visitation cases, the best interest of the child is always the court’s number one priority. However, Massachusetts can be more restrictive than other states because its family courts use the Harm Standard. For a grandparent to receive visitation rights, a court must determine that the children would suffer harm if contact with the grandparents was denied.
One thing that might increase a grandparent’s chances of receiving visitation is if they can establish that their pre-existing relationship with the child rises to the standard of de-facto parenthood. This means the grandparent has been heavily engaged in the child’s life, living with them and performing a portion of caretaking responsibility on par with the legal parents. If a grandparent is able to provide evidence that they acted as a de facto parent for a substantial amount of the child’s life, their odds of gaining visitation rights may be higher.
Let O’Connor Family Law Protect Your Family
To learn more about grandparents’ rights, or for help seeking a fair visitation agreement, reach out to us at O’Connor Family Law. Our attorneys fight passionately for the best interests of families, and we may be able to help in your case.