When two individuals divorce, very rarely are they the only ones who experience the sometimes rocky process and resulting turmoil. This is especially true when the divorcing couple has children. From the grandparents’ point of view, not only do they see their grandchildren uprooted to some extent; they also grieve for their own children going through the pain of divorce.
There are many negative aspects of a divorce; and family dynamics can change quickly. In an instant, the grandchildren-grandparent relationship may become damaged – and sometimes severed – if one parent objects to the relationship. Specifically, the soon-to-be-ex-son- or daughter-in-law may object vehemently to the children spending time with the other spouse’s parent(s).
When this happens, grandparents often seek legal counsel regarding their rights to see and spend time with their grandchildren.
Fortunately, the Commonwealth does provide some protection for grandparents faced with these exact types of circumstances. Specifically, Massachusetts law sometimes allows for grandparents’ visitation rights with their grandchildren when mom and dad cannot agree to any other arrangement.
Note: In order for grandparents to bring a petition for visitation rights in court, they can only do so, “If the parents of an unmarried minor child are divorced, married but living apart, under a temporary order or judgment of separate support, or if either or both parents are deceased, or if said unmarried minor child was born out of wedlock whose paternity has been [confirmed] . . . and the parents do not reside together.” MA G.L. 119 §39D
To establish visitation rights, the grandparent(s) must file a petition with the court and sufficiently demonstrate that the right to visit their grandchildren is in the best interests of the children. This sometimes is an uphill battle because there is a legal presumption that the parent’s decision to sever the grandparent/grandchild relationship is a “valid parental decision.” In other words, if the parent is fit to be a parent, the court presumes that his or her decision to prohibit visits with the grandparents was made in the best interests of the children.
However, it is possible to overcome this presumption.
The grandparents seeking visitation rights must convince the court that denying their petition is not in the best interests of the children. Specifically, the grandparents must demonstrate to the court that the denial of visitation rights would cause the children harm; and that it negatively would affect the children’s safety, health and/or welfare.
If the grandparents offer stability, a safe environment, and can bring fullness to their grandchildren’s lives – particularly when one or both of the parents essentially are MIA– the court may grant the petition for visitation rights.
Contact us today.
If you are grandparents and wish to establish visitation rights with your grandchildren, contact Attorney Rosanne Klovee
today to discuss your legal options. Moreover, if you wish to “cut your parents off” so to speak, Attorney Klovee has significant experience in this area.