5 Things to Know About Grandparent Visitation Rights
A Grandparent is an important part of every child’s life, which is why it’s vital to know about visitation rights. Research shows that children who enjoy a high level of involvement with their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems. Unfortunately, divorce or other family issues can sometimes prevent a child from visiting their grandparents.
The law favors parents when it comes to making decisions about who spends time with their children. What’s more, grandparents do not automatically have a right to see their grandkids – in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states should not interfere in a parent’s decisions regarding visitation with their child. In their ruling, though, the Supreme Court refused to strike down a Washington state law granting grandparent visitation; this left a patchwork of grandparent visitation laws that varies greatly from state to state.
The good news is that grandparents who want to spend time with their grandchildren may have legal recourse in Oklahoma.
5 Things Every Grandparent Should Know about Visitation Rights
1. Definition of an intact nuclear family
An intact nuclear family is one in which the mother and father are married to each other and are raising the child together. If both parents refuse to grant visitation to a grandparent, a court cannot order grandparent visitation – that is unless something disrupts the nuclear family.
2. Certain circumstances can disrupt a nuclear family
A number of circumstances can disrupt a nuclear family and make it more likely that a judge will grant visitation rights. These circumstances include:
- Divorce, separation, or annulment
- Death of a parent
- The child does not live with the parent or is in the legal custody of someone else
- One parent has been convicted of a felony and is incarcerated
- Desertion of a parent
- The parents were never married and do not live together
- Termination of parental rights
3. How Judges Determine the Best Interest of a Child
Judges in Oklahoma consider a number of factors when determining if grandparent visitation is in the best interest of a child. These factors include:
A strong bond between the grandparent and the child
The existing relationship between a grandparent and a child – children who lived with their grandparents have developed a strong bond, for example, and the court may find it in the best interest of the child to continue that relationship.
The child’s wishes
In cases in which the child is old enough to express their wishes, the judge may call the child into their chambers and ask about their preferences without the parents or other parties present. The judge is not required to agree with the child’s preferences and does not consider the preferences of the grandparent.
Other considerations include:
- The grandparent’s willingness to support the child’s relationship with their parents
- The motives of the parents and grandparents
- The mental and physical health of the child, parents, and grandparents
- The stability of the child’s environment
- The behavior and moral fitness of the parents and grandparents
4. A Grandparent Must Show the Child Would Suffer Actual or Potential Harm
Judges use different standards to determine court-ordered supervision than they do when terminating parental rights. If a parent is not legally unfit, the judge will presume that the parent is acting in the best interest of the child. Any grandparent who wants to challenge the parent’s decision to prohibit visitation must present clear and convincing evidence that the parent is not acting in the best interest of the child. The grandparent must also show that the child would suffer actual or potential harm without grandparent visitation.
5. How to File a Petition for Visitation
Any grandparent who wants court-ordered visitation must file a petition in state district court. If there is already a case involving the child, such as a divorce, the grandparent must file the petition in the same court handling that proceeding.
The grandparent must give notice of the petition to the parents or legal custody of the child. The judge will schedule a hearing; the grandparent bears the burden of proving that all the criteria for visitation rights have been met.
Contact Brown & Gould If You Are Seeking Visitation Rights
For best results, grandparents should consult with a family lawyer who understands grandparent’s rights in Oklahoma. Brown & Gould handles family and business law in Oklahoma and can help grandparents get the visitation they seek. Call or text (405) 235-4500 today for a consultation.