The divorce, separation, or death of a parent not only affects the couple and children involved, but also the grandparents. In New York, grandparents have a limited right to visit their grandkids—since the law recognizes that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children as they wish, including who visits their kids. Keep in mind, these rights only apply to biological or adoptive grandparents and do not extend to other relatives.
In New York, grandparents have a legal right to request court-ordered visitation when one of the following occurs:
- One or both parents pass away.
- The grandparents have a substantial existing relationship with their grandchildren.
- The child’s parents have interfered with the grandparent’s efforts to establish or maintain a relationship.
How to Obtain Visitation Rights to Your Grandchildren
The grandparent requesting visitation privileges has the “burden of proof”—the duty to provide sufficient evidence—to demonstrate a legal right to court-ordered time and that the proposed visits are in the child’s best interests.
First, you need to establish legal grounds for your request. If one or both parents die, this results in an automatic determination. If one or both parents are alive, you must prove an existing relationship with your grandchild or show that the child’s parent(s) have prevented you from having one.
Keep in mind, judges give parents parental preferences substantial weight regarding who is able to visit their kids, taking into consideration the parents’ objections with other factors including the current family structure and the extent of any existing relationship. If there is animosity between a grandparent and parent(s), it is still not enough to completely deny a request for court-ordered time.
Once you have established legal grounds to request visits, you need to demonstrate that spending time with your grandchild is in his or her best interest. New York courts will consider all relevant factors.
Common factors include:
- The child’s age
- The child’s wishes
- Emotional and physical needs of the child
- The distance between where the child resides and where your proposed visits will occur
- Your past and current relationship with the child and parent(s)
- Mental and physical wellbeing of all parties involved, including the child
- Motivation of parent’s limiting grandparents visitation
- Parent’s past behavior and conduct
To start the process, you need to file a petition with the court in the county where your grandchild lives. In the petition, you must describe your proposed schedule for court-ordered visitation time. As soon as you file your request, you need to inform everyone involved, including the child’s parents.
If you already have a current visitation order, but you wish to spend more time with your grandchild or the child’s parent is preventing you from visiting, you can request a modification to the order or ask the court to enforce it.
If you are interested in obtaining grandparent visitation in New York, request a consultation with our New York family lawyer at Peter L. Cedeño & Associates, P.C. today.