White Plains Attorney Pursues Grandparents’ Rights

Children benefit from multigenerational relationships

Grandparents’ relationships with their grandchildren are often among the casualties of a divorce. Lauren B. Abramson, Esq. recognizes the benefits children receive from loving relationships with their grandparents.

Grandparents’ desire for visitation with their grandchildren leads to disputes when one or both of the parents oppose the visits. The most common scenario is this: The parents divorce, one parent is awarded primary custody of the child, and that parent refuses to allow visitation by the other parent’s parents. In such cases, we work hard to help ensure that grandparents aren’t cut off from their grandchildren by divorce.

What’s the biggest obstacle to grandparent visitation?

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2000 issued a six-three decision in Troxel v. Granville that struck down a state law that had allowed courts to grant visitation to any interested party so long as the visits were in the best interest of the child, even if the parents objected.

The facts of the case were these: Brad Troxel committed suicide, leaving behind two daughters and their mother, Tommie Granville. Troxel’s parents kept visiting their grandchildren after the suicide. However when Granville remarried and her new husband adopted the two girls, Granville restricted the grandparents’ visits.

The grandparents went to court, arguing that under their state’s visitation law, they had the right to visit the girls so long as it was in their best interest. The trial judge agreed. The U.S. Supreme Court; however, ruled that the law violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it failed to provide any protection for Granville’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the rearing of her own daughters.

Can I get custody or visitation with my grandchild in New York?

Under New York law, courts can award custody of a child to a grandparent over the objection of a parent only when there are “extraordinary circumstances,” such as abuse or prolonged abandonment by the parent.

In the aftermath of the Troxel decision, the status of the New York law allowing grandparent visitation is less clear. Under the New York statute, a court can give grandparents visitation rights over a parent’s objection if the court determines that grandparent visits are in the best interest of the child. This may seem to put the law directly at odds with the Supreme Court’s decision in Troxel, but at least one appellate court has held that Troxel didn’t automatically invalidate the New York law. That New York case, Hertz v. Hertz, held in 2002 that although the New York visitation statute does not expressly say that courts must give special deference to the wishes of a parent, the courts have interpreted it and applied it as if it did. Therefore, the appellate court held, the statute is not unconstitutional on its face.

Regardless of how the issue ultimately shakes out, it is a safe bet that grandparents who have functioned as de facto parents of the grandchildren — meaning they provided a home for their grandchildren or took care of them daily while the parents were at work — will be in the strongest position to argue for visitation.

Contact our White Plains law firm about visiting your grandchildren

Lauren B. Abramson, Esq. takes the time to review your situation and explain how New York law affects your rights. Our office is across from Saxon Woods Park, between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the New England Thruway. Call us today at 914-908-6829 or contact us online to make an appointment. We serve individuals and families throughout Westchester and Putnam counties, including White Plains, Harrison, New Rochelle, Bedford, Armonk, Bronxville, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Somers, Croton-on-Hudson, Carmel, Peekskill and Rye.