There are events in life that can cause significant changes in the relationship of grandparents with their grandchildren, such as separation, divorce, and the death of one parent.
Here we examine: The fundamentals of grandparent visitation rights and take a closer look at those rights. We tell you what you should know about visitation rights, the possibility for grandparents to seek custody of their grandchildren, what the grandparents’ rights are in terms of child custody and how to get started. We also add, what happens if the biological parent abuses the child? Considerations for grandparent custody and visitation in court vs. mediation, and why should you hire an attorney?
The Fundamentals of Grandparent Visitation Rights
Most grandparents value the time they spend with their grandchildren. While grandparents have visitation rights, the laws governing those rights are complex and vary by state.
If you live in Kentucky, you may be wondering about grandparents’ visitation rights. Grandparents have the legal right at any time to request reasonable visitation with their grandchildren. Generally, before or after divorce, separation, and the death of one parent.
Allowing grandparents to visit their grandchildren, even if the parents are likely to object unless for legitimate reasons, is generally based on the premise that children need contact or exposure with their grandparents.
While most parents accept this and don’t interfere with these relationships, most states now prohibit parents from interfering. Many of such laws are much broader, including siblings and other family members, referred to as ‘third party’ or ‘nonparent’ visitation rights.
Most courts in each state must recognize and enforce non-parental visitation orders from other states.
A Closer Look at Grandparents’ Rights
Reasonable rights can be granted to grandparents in Kentucky under the grandparent visitation statute, if it is in the best interests of the child.
Even though the statute hasn’t been revised since 1996, it has been interpreted and applied differently over the years, influenced by precedents established by the outcomes of local and national cases.
As a result, when it comes to grandparent rights, Kentucky is regarded as a generally permissive state. In Kentucky, the interpretation of the best interests of the child varies by case but has tended to favor grandparents.
What You Should Know About Visitation Rights
Even if Kentucky’s laws appear to be more favorable to grandparents’ rights, the burden of proof remains with grandparents’ ability to demonstrate the child’s best interests.
Visitation rights differ from custody rights in that they’re more limited. Grandparents with visitation rights are free to visit their grandchildren. Grandparents, on the other hand, are usually permitted to visit the child under the supervision of the individual who has custody of the child.
The following are some of the factors that the court may consider when determining what’s in the best interests of the child:
• Your relationship with the child, as well as the amount of time you spend together
• The potential advantages and disadvantages of the proposed visits
• The effect of court-ordered visitation on the parents’ relationship with their child
• The physical and emotional well-being of all parties involved
• The child’s desire for security
• The child’s wishes and preferences
The rights of grandparents will be determined by these factors, as well as a few others. You should also consider parental rights and how they may affect grandparents’ rights.
In Kentucky, if a grandparent’s child loses parental rights, the grandparents’ visitation rights are not terminated.
Most judges prefer that both parents and grandparents negotiate a visitation schedule on their own. If the parents and grandparents are unable to agree on a visitation schedule, the court may impose one that considers the interests of the parents, grandchildren, and children.
Is It Possible for Grandparents to Seek Custody Of Their Grandchildren?
Similarly, to visitation cases, various factors that are considered in custody cases in Kentucky take the child’s best interests into account. Other factors that the court will consider during the decision-making process are as follows:
• The child’s and parents’ wishes
• The child’s relationship with his or her parent(s), siblings, and other actively involved family members
• The child’s adaptation to their current environment
• The mental and physical well-being of all parties involved
• A history of domestic abuse
• The natural parents’ reasons for placing the child in the care of a ‘de facto’ parent
When you already have a child, you’ll be the child’s primary caregiver and financial supporter. In such cases, you may seek custody unless the child’s parents can demonstrate a compelling reason for temporarily placing the child in your care.
Domestic violence, attending school, or looking for work are just a few of the reasons.
What Are the Rights of Grandparents in Terms Of Child Custody?
Grandparents may be granted custody rights in some cases by the court. In most cases, grandparents with custody rights live with the child, make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, and provide basic needs.
In general, for a grandparent to be granted custody, the child’s parents must be unable or unwilling to raise the child. Furthermore, the grandparents must demonstrate that they’re capable of raising the child.
When the child’s parents die or are unable to raise the child, this is an example of a situation like this. The following are some of the reasons a parent may be deemed unfit:
• The court has ruled that the child is living in an unsafe environment.
• The court has ruled that the parent endangers the child’s welfare.
• The parent has a history of child neglect or abuse.
• The parent has a history of substance abuse.
• The parent has a mental illness that prevents them from adequately providing for their child.
Grandparents can also demonstrate that they’re capable and willing to take on the responsibility of raising the child.
When the court determines that it’s in the best interests of the child to award custody to the grandparents, the court will do so.
The following are some of the factors the court will consider when deciding whether it’s in the best interests of the child to award custody to grandparents:
• The grandparents’ financial ability to care for the child
• The grandparents’ physical and mental health
• Whether the child wishes to live with his or her grandparents.
• Whether or not the child and grandparents have an emotional bond.
How Do You Get Started?
You can request visitation by submitting a ‘petition’ or formal written request to the district court in the county where your grandchild resides.
If you already have a grandparent visitation order but want more time or the child’s parent is preventing you from visiting, you can petition the court to modify or enforce the order.
The grandparent seeking visitation or an adjustment to an existing order must file the petition; a child’s parent cannot begin this process on the grandparent’s behalf.
What Happens If the Biological Parent Abuses the Child?
If a grandparent can demonstrate that a parent is abusive, incompetent, or unfit, the court may be more willing to grant the grandparents permissive or even permanent rights in some cases, if it is in the best interests of the child.
During the divorce process, the courts frequently favor visitation and/or custody.
Considerations For Grandparent Custody and Visitation in Court Vs. Mediation
When it comes to grandparenting time issues, it’s usually best to try to resolve them in an amicable manner rather than going to court.
The parents who are denying access are likely to agree to having the dispute mediated by a qualified professional.
In most cases, it’s best to leave litigation as a last resort, ideally only after all other options have been exhausted.
Why Should You Hire an Attorney?
Legal disputes involving grandchildren can be a difficult and emotional experience for all parties involved. The laws differ from one state to the next, and the interpretation of the laws is constantly evolving.
Grandparent custody and visitation rights can be extremely complicated. If you’re a grandparent in Kentucky and want to pursue these rights, you should contact a child custody lawyer or a family law attorney.
A qualified family law attorney or child custody lawyer can advise you on your rights and options, help you prepare any necessary legal documentation, and represent you during custody or visitation proceedings.