Divorce: Do Grandparents Have Rights to Their Grandchildren?

In New York, grandparents and other relatives may have the ability to seek visitation rights after a divorce. If the non-parent relative has a preexisting and substantial bond with the child, the court recognizes that the continued relationship may contribute to the well-being of the child. Therefore, it is possible for relatives to remain part of the child’s life as long as it is safe and in the best interests of the child.

In determining child custody and visitation issues, New York courts are guided by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Troxel v. Granville, which sets forth a presumption that parents typically act in the best interests of their child, so each parent’s wishes for the child must be given special weight by the court. To further this decision, many states have created a rebuttable presumption against non-parent visitation when both of the child’s parents agree that the relative’s visitation should be denied. A grandparent must submit strong evidence that this presumption does not apply, which can be difficult. Mediation in this type of case can be effective if the parties are willing to sit down and calmly discuss the situation. In cases where the child is not living with either parent or there is evidence of abuse or neglect, a grandparent can petition for visitation, temporary custody or even permanent child custody.

If you are a grandparent or other non-parent relative interested in seeking visitation rights, it is important to obtain the advice and guidance of a New York family law attorney experienced in handling this complex area of the law.

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