Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights After a Divorce?

Especially after a divorce, a parent may keep his or her ex-spouse’s parents from visiting their grandchildren. Similar situations may arise after one parent dies or during a legal separation. In Tennessee, parents as well as grandparents in these difficult circumstances need the advice and services of a .

Frequently after a divorce, the custodial parent may not want the ex-spouse’s parents to have visitation rights. A parent may feel that the grandparents are a negative influence, while grandparents may be concerned about their grandchild’s safety and welfare.

If a parent prevents a grandparent from visiting a grandchild, does that violate the grandparent’s legal rights? What recourse does a grandparent have? In Tennessee, what are a parent’s legal rights? What are a grandparent’s rights?

Do Grandparents Have a Legal Right to Visit Their Grandchildren?

Almost always, a divorce or a legal separation is tough on children. Grandparents may offer a child encouragement and emotional support after a divorce or separation, but in some cases, that offer will be rejected by the custodial parent.

If you are a grandparent in Tennessee, you and your may petition the court for visitation privileges if the custodial parent stops you from seeing your grandchild or grandchildren. Working with the right Tennessee family law attorney can make the difference.

Who is legally considered a grandparent under Tennessee law? A child’s biological grandparent, a biological grandparent’s spouse, and the parent of a child’s adoptive parent are all legally considered “grandparents” in the State of Tennessee.

When Do Grandparents Need an Attorney’s Help?

The United States Supreme Court has determined that grandparents do not have any “absolute” legal right to visitations with a grandchild, even if those visits may be in the child’s best interests. Nevertheless, all fifty states recognize some type of grandparental visitation privileges.

Tennessee’s “Grandparents Visitation Statute” is a state law that allows grandparents to seek visitation rights in these circumstances:

  1.  A child’s parent is deceased or has been missing for at least six months.
  2.  The child’s parents are divorced, separated, or were never legally married.
  3.  Another state’s court has ordered grandparental visits.
  4.  The child lived with the grandparents for at least a year before being removed.

Additionally, a grandparent in this state may seek visitation rights when the child and grandparent have maintained a relationship for at least a year and when ending that relationship may harm the child emotionally.

What is Required to Win Grandparental Visitation Rights?

In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court (in Troxel v. Granville) held that when parents object to visits by grandparents, grandparents have no “absolute” legal right to visitations. Because courts place a parent’s rights over a grandparent’s, winning the right to visit a grandchild may be difficult.

Let’s say that a child’s father dies and the mother keeps the father’s parents from visiting their grandchildren. In such a case, the grandparents may have to demonstrate to the court that the child would be emotionally traumatized by the absence of a relationship with the grandparents.

That may be difficult to prove, and grandparents in such cases must be represented by a Kingston visitation lawyer. But even if the court approves grandparental visits in order to avoid traumatizing a child, the court will interfere as little as possible with the parent’s rights.

What Will the Court Consider?

A grandparent who is petitioning for visitation rights in Tennessee must show the court why visitations are in the best interests of the child and must provide testimony and/or evidence that describes to the court the existing grandparent-grandchild relationship. To decide if grandparental visits will be granted, the court will consider:

  1.   the existing grandparent-grandchild relationship
  2.  why the grandparent is seeking visitation rights
  3.  why the parent is preventing visitations
  4.  the amount of time a grandparent requests and its effect on the child’s other activities
  5.  the benefits to the child, particularly if one parent is deceased

If both of a child’s parents are living and are still married, and if both parents are opposed to grandparental visits, a grandparent may not have any legal options. Even so, a family law attorney may still seek to negotiate privately for some type of compromise arrangement.

When May Grandparents Seek a Grandchild’s Custody?

Grandparents in Tennessee may seek the custody of their grandchildren for the same reasons that they may seek visitation rights:

  1.  The parents have divorced or separated, or at least one parent is deceased.
  2.  The child has been abandoned, abused, or neglected by the parent or parents.

If one or both parents are alive, a grandparent cannot win a child’s custody unless a court finds that the parent or parents are unfit or unable to care properly for the child. A court will examine the fitness of the parent or parents and the ability of the grandparent to meet the child’s needs.

Can a Biological Grandparent Visit a Child Who Has Been Adopted?

In Tennessee, adoption usually dissolves any legal tie that a child has with that child’s biological parents and grandparents, although there are legal exceptions, especially if the adoptive parent is a blood relative or a stepparent.

Grandparents who are seeking visitation privileges or the custody of a grandchild must be represented by a Tennessee family law attorney, and they should contact that attorney as soon as they decide on legal action to pursue custody or visitation privileges.

But with hundreds of family law attorneys in Tennessee, how can you find an attorney who has the experience and legal knowledge that grandparents will need?

Why Should Davis Law Firm Be Your Choice?

When you become a client of Davis Law Firm in a visitation or child custody case, our legal team will prepare the paperwork and negotiate with the other side’s attorney on your behalf. We will fight diligently and effectively to win visitation rights or child custody.

Award-winning Kingston family law attorney Tyler Davis will negotiate with your grandchild’s parent or parents for an out-of-court agreement, but if a private agreement is not possible, he will make sure that you are treated fairly by the court and that your side of the case is fully understood by the court.

Learn more about your rights as a grandparent by calling the Kingston offices of Davis Law Firm – at 865-830-6286 – and scheduling a no-obligation case evaluation. You will learn how the law applies to your own case, and you will receive specific, sound, and personalized legal advice.