The extended family has historically been essential to a child’s development and well-being. Their time, wisdom, and support comprise a critical support system. Grandparents are arguably among the most important nonparental influences a child can have.
Despite studies showing the value of grandparent-grandchild relationships, some parents block older family members from having in role in the lives of their children. Parents prohibit grandparents from seeing their grandchildren for many reasons. The action might be to punish the other parent or penalize the grandparent for some perceived wrongdoing.
In New York, grandparents have limited legal grounds to seek court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren.
Legal Grounds for Grandparent Visitation
New York law provides grandparents and adoptive grandparents with a narrow set of grounds to petition for court-ordered visitation. This right does not apply to great-grandparents or other relatives.
A grandparent can seek legal visitation in these circumstances:
- One or both parents die
- The parents have interfered with their efforts to bond with their grandchildren
- The grandparent has a substantial existing relationship with the child
The first hurdle that must be cleared is establishing the legal grounds to seek visitation. If one of the parents is deceased, the grandparent automatically has the standing to pursue legal visitation. In other circumstances, the grandparents must prove that either the parent(s) has obstructed their ability to form a bond with the grandchild or the grandparent has established a significant relationship with their grandchild.
The sharp attorneys at Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C. has substantial experience in developing legal strategies for grandparents needed court-mandated visitation.
Special Consideration Given to Parent’s Opinion
New York believes that a fit parent has the right to make decisions for their child. Understanding why the parent has intervened in the grandparent-grandchild relationship is critical to the court. The burden of proof is on the grandparent to overcome the objections of the custodial parent.
As in other visitation matters before the court, the petitioner must then demonstrate to the court how visitation serves the child’s best interests. Grandparents can also petition for visitation when the parental rights have been terminated.
The court will weigh several factors:
- Age of the child
- Relationship with the child
- Attitude toward the parent(s)
- Where visitation would occur
- Mental and physical health of everyone involved
For children mature enough to understand, the court will consider their feelings and preferences.
Legal Grounds for Grandparent Custody
About 2.7 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren in the U.S. More than 6 million children live in their grandparents’ homes. An even higher number of children live in multigenerational homes where grandparents also live to support the parents in caring for children.
Many of these arrangements are informal, but there are circumstances when grandparents decide to fight for legal custody of their grandchildren. When a grandparent determines their adult child cannot properly care for their own children, the grandparent may need to petition for temporary guardianship or permanent custody.
Extraordinary circumstances when a grandparent might seek custody include the following:
- Both parents are deceased
- The parent(s) abuses the child (physically, emotionally, or sexually)
- The parent(s) neglects the child
- The parent(s) abandons the child
If any non-parent files for custody, both parents will be served notice. The court has the authority to appoint an attorney for the child to represent their interests. In addition, the judge may order an investigation by social services or mental health professionals.
Grandparents can also seek to have a parent’s rights involuntarily terminated and seek to formally adopt the child.
Grandparents Need Skilled Legal Counsel to Pursue Visitation
The grandparent-grandchild relationship is mutually beneficial and has positive impacts for years to come. If you are a grandparent being denied access to your grandchildren, contact our legal team at Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C.
The court prioritizes the rights of parents to decide how to raise their children, including who can and cannot have a relationship with them. If the grandparent shows that the benefits of visitation override the parents’ objections, visitation can be awarded.
Schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights as a grandparent by calling (516) 406-8381.