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What Are Grandparents’ Rights?

Life-altering changes in the family, such as divorce, separation or the loss of a parent, can strain a relationship with grandparents. In other cases, the parents and grandparents may simply not appreciate a grandparent’s influence. In New York, grandparents have limited legal rights when it comes to seeking court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren—at least in specific circumstances.

When can grandparents request visitation?

In New York, grandparents may request court-ordered visitation in certain situations:

  • Death of one or both parents: If one or both parents have passed away, grandparents have an automatic legal basis to request visitation.
  • Substantial existing relationship: When grandparents have a substantial, existing relationship with their grandchildren, they can seek court-ordered visitation.
  • Interference by parents: Grandparents can also request visitation if the child’s parents have interfered with their efforts to establish or maintain a relationship. This relationship must be significant.

Note that these rights pertain specifically to biological or adoptive grandparents and do not extend to great-grandparents or other relatives.

What must grandparents show to receive visitation rights?

Grandparents who seek court-ordered visitation have the burden of proof to establish both that they have standing to seek a legal right to visitation and that the proposed visits are in the child’s best interests:

  • Legal grounds: If one or both parents have passed away, this determination is automatic. If living parents are involved, grandparents must either prove an existing relationship with their grandchild or show that the child’s parent(s) have prevented them from establishing one.
  • Child’s best interests: Factors considered include the child’s age, the child’s wishes if mature enough to express a preference, the distance between the child’s home and the proposed visitation location, the mental and physical health of all parties involved, past and current relationships between the child and grandparents and the grandparents’ nurturing skills and attitude towards the parents.

To learn more about grandparents’ rights, contact the qualified family attorneys at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP.