The Complete Guide to Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

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Did you know that grandparents can file for visitation if there is trouble in the marriage? This is a complete guide to grandparents’ visitation rights: how to file them, and under what conditions are they granted.

If there is a separation between a married couple, it can be very hard on the children. Each individual parent may not be able to provide proper care for the child themselves or want grandparents of the other spouse to continue having a relationship with them. 

In some cases, new stepparents may not get along with the children or want them to meet their grandparents from the first marriage.

In such cases, grandparents who have an existing strong bond with the children can file for visitation rights so that they can visit the children and care about their welfare and wellbeing. For this purpose, they can take the help of Grandparent’s visitation rights. 

However, as you grow old, the whole process for filing an application in the court for visitation rights can be very complicated and confusing. This article will try to help you understand this process in a simple, step-by-step manner. 

Criteria For The Application

Under US laws, if you are a grandparent and wish to have visitation rights to your grandchildren, you will have to create a visitation application.

The court will look for the following things before approving your visitation rights:-

  • The court has to search if there was an existing relationship between you as a grandparent and the grandchild. The court will approve of the visitation if they feel that the best course for the relationship with your grandchild is to move forward with the visiting plan. 
  • The other criteria for the visitation approval are to also get the seal of support from the parents or the legal guardians as the parents are higher in the priority list. The parents/legal guardians will be consulted before the approval of the visitation rights. If the parents refuse to allow the child to meet the grandparent, the court will decline the approval. 

When Can A Grandparent File For Visitation Rights?

Normally, a grandparent cannot file for custody if the parents of the grandchild are still married. However, there are some exceptions where the grandparents can still file for the visitation rights of their grandchildren. 

If the parents are living separately, then you can file for the custody of the child, or if there is no news about the whereabouts of a parent for at least a month, you can also file for custody in the court. 

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The court will also accept your visitation appeal if one of the parents also agrees to your petition in the court. Another exception to this case is if the grandchild is staying or adopted by a stepparent or if the kid is not living with either of the parents. 

Although the best approach is to try and resolve these family matters outside the court first, mediation might be a great way to reach a mutual agreement without needing to involve legal matters. Mediation can be a safer way for you to express your desires and concerns on why you want to get the visitation rights for your grandchild.

Discussing matters without going to court is more likely to preserve your relationship with your grandchild and their parents. If anyone other than the parent wants the child’s custody, whether they are the stepparent or any other relative, then the process is called guardianship. 

How To Ask For Visitation Rights In Court? 

This can be very complicated or challenging for you as a grandparent. Under the laws set by the American government, if you want the legal custody of your grandchild, then you will have to file a petition in court. 

You will also have to figure out any existing family cases under the law. For instance, there could already be a divorce filed between the parents.

Suppose there are already cases filed between the parents, such as domestic violence, divorce, child support, parentage case, restraining order, etc. In that case, you can get visitation rights under these cases. 

If there is no existing such case, you will have to build a case from scratch. Follow the following steps to ask for visitation of your grandchild in the court:-

Step 1

Figure out if there is already an open case in the same family. As explained above, an ongoing case will give you a good head start, but if there is no such case, you will have to start from scratch. 

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Step 2

The next step requires you to fill out the court forms. There is no specific court form for this case under the central court, but a few state courts have a form or template for this condition. You can use the form FL-300

You will have to specify what type of visitation schedule you would like to follow with your grandchild and the reasons for your choice. You have to make sure that you have a convincing answer, as based on this answer, the judge will decide whether to hand you the custody of the grandchild or not. 

You will have to answer questions like why it is in the grandchild’s best interest to live with you instead of their parents. You can enlighten the judge about your relationship with your grandchild as the stronger your relationship is portrayed with the grandchild. The higher chances will be of you getting custody. 

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Step 3

It is also essential that you get your form reviewed before you apply. Getting a professional outlook from a lawyer will benefit you as they can give you important suggestions to strengthen your case. 

Getting the form checked before will also rule out the possibility of any errors in the form, due to which you won’t have to send the application again. Your lawyer can also guide you to fill any additional forms if any necessary formalities are left. 

Step 4

It is ideal that you at least have three copies of the forms as you will need multiple copies in the future. One copy will be with you, the second and the third copy goes to the parents of the child, and the original copy is submitted to the court. 

Step 5

You must always fill the forms and submit them to the court clerk. The clerk will keep the original form with themselves and hand out the copies to you. 

There will be a small filing fee that you will have to pay at the time of the submission. If you cannot afford this filing fee under any circumstance, you can get a fee waiver

Step 6

After you have submitted the form to the clerk, he or she will then give you a court date or mediation date. In most cases, before actually going to the court, you and your grandchild’s parents will have a meeting before the mediator. There also might be a mediation orientation before your case is taken up at the court. 

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Step 7

At this stage, you have filed the papers in court for your visitation rights for your grandchild. Now you will have to send a legal notice to the parents informing about the same. There is a lawful procedure for letting someone know that you have filed a petition or case against them at the court. 

You will require copies of the papers submitted here as your lawyer will send a copy each to the parents. These papers should reach the parents at least 16 days before the court hearing. These papers must also be handed in person either by your lawyer or yourself. 

If you have filed the case under an ongoing case, you can give each parent a physical notice. You must remember that the person filing the papers is at least 18 years old. If your petition is a new case, you will need to hand in the documents via personal service. 

Step 8

The next step requires you to fill the proof of service at the court. You must file these proof of service papers correctly so that there are no complications in the future. You can also consult your family lawyer to check whether all the papers are correct or not.

Step 9

Next, you will have to go to the mediation orientation or the court hearing, depending on the case. The case hearing may be in front of a judge or a commissioner. 

The court would first like you to reach a mutual agreement on the terms of the visitation on your own, but if you cannot reach an agreement, the court will interfere. The judge will then decide in the best interest of the child. All the parties involved will have to agree to this decision. 

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What Happens After The Judgment? 

After the judge has decided what to do with the case, he will announce his decision to the court. The judge will sign a court order, then, usually, the lawyer from either side is asked to prepare this order. The judge then signs on this order when the order is prepared. 

To Summarize

Most people are not even aware that they have a right under the law to visit their grandparents if there is a problem in the marriage. This guide is intended to help you understand the conditions under which visitation rights can be granted to grandparents, and what steps you need to take in order to get them.

We hope this content was informative and useful to you. If you liked it, please share it with people who are looking for similar information since it could help improve the life of a child.