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How can grandparents get custody or visitation rights?

Grandparents often play a significant role in their grandchildren's lives. Their presence can offer stability and security. Depending on the family, they may even be the best equipped to have legal custody of their grandkids.

However, unless presented with evidence to prove otherwise, courts presume that a parent is the best person to raise their child. So when can a grandparent intervene?

Custody considerations

As with most custody and visitation rulings, the court considers the best interest of the child when making decisions. To aid with the decision-making process, the court may use mediation, independent mental health evaluations and recorded on-camera interviews with the child. Factors taken into consideration include:

  • The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child's changing developmental needs.
  • The needs of the child, taking into consideration their relationship with siblings, peers and extended family members.
  • The reasonable preference of the child. The child's preference will be considered if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference.

Proving harm

One option for grandparents pursuing custody or visitation rights is to prove that actual harm would occur to the child if they are not granted their wishes. In this circumstance, the grandparents must be able to prove the grandchild would suffer harm if custody or visitation is denied, which can be difficult and is best done with the assistance of an attorney.

Parental support

Ultimately, the best way for grandparents to get visitation, or even custody, is to gain the support of at least one of the parents. In this circumstance, it is often easier to prove that it is in the best interest of the child to maintain a relationship with their grandparents.

It's again important to stress that courts favor parents. Grandparents who are able to maintain an amicable relationship with one or both parents will be well-equipped to have the rights they seek.

When that's not possible, grandparents should explore every option for keeping their relationship with their grandchildren.

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