Grandparent RightsThe grandparent-grandchild relationship can be one of the most precious ones a person can have.  In a perfect world, grandparents would serve in an active role in their grandchild’s life while being considered a valued part of their family.   Unfortunately, life circumstances can occur which may result in grandparents being denied their usual place in their grandchild’s life.   When a family goes through an event such as separation, divorce or death, the grandchild/grandparent relationship may be affected.  However, under certain circumstances, grandparents can take legal steps which can help them maintain their relationship with their grandchildren.

Grandparenting Time

Under Michigan law, grandparents can request that a court order visitation or “grandparenting time” provided certain circumstances are present.  Michigan grandparents have the right to ask the court for visitation if the child’s parents are divorcing, separating, or annulling their marriage or have already done one of these things.  If their grandchild was born from parents who have never been married, do not live together, and paternity has been properly established the grandparents can seek visitation.  Another circumstance is when someone other than the child’s legal parents have custody of them.  Additionally, the grandparent may ask for visitation if the child’s parent who is a child of the grandparent is deceased or if the grandparent has taken custodial care of the child within the previous year even without a court order.

The Court

Once it has been determined that a grandparent qualifies to ask for visitation, they can make a request with the court and the court will have a hearing.  There is a presumption under the law that if the parents are fit, their decision to deny the visitation is in the child’s best interest.  If two fit parents both file an affidavit denying the grandparent’s visitation request, the court can dismiss the motion without a hearing. However, if the parents do not file this affidavit, this presumption can be rebutted at the hearing by the grandparent if they can prove that not visiting with the grandparent will be harmful to the child.

If the harm can be established, the court will them decide the right amount of visitation time by weighing several factor such as the emotional ties between the grandparent and child, the length and quality of their prior relationship, the grandparent’s “moral fitness”, the grandparent’s mental and physical health, and any other factors which are relevant to the physical and psychological well-being of the child.

Seeking Custody

In some cases, grandparents may want to seek custody of their grandchildren.  While this can be a difficult battle, the circumstances and what the court deems to be in the best interest of the child can be considered by the court.  Whether such a case would be possible would depend heavily on the facts surrounding their grandchildren, their parents and the grandparents.

Grandparents being allowed visitation will depend on the presentation of numerous factors.  It is important to have experienced counsel to help you tell your family’s story in a way which will provide an accurate picture for the court.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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