How Grandparents Can Seek Visitation Rights Over Parents’ Objections

In New York State, the right of grandparents to seek visitation with their grandchildren is a matter of legal recognition and judicial discretion. The law acknowledges the unique and valuable role that grandparents often play in the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents may petition the court for visitation rights, but several factors and conditions influence the court’s decision.

A state statute, Domestic Relations Law § 72, specifically allows grandparents to apply for visitation if either or both of the parents are deceased. This provision reflects the understanding that grandparents can provide continuity and stability for children who have suffered the loss of a parent. Additionally, grandparents can seek visitation if “circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene.” This broad phrasing grants the court considerable latitude to determine what constitutes a significant enough situation to warrant granting visitation rights.

To be successful in their petition, grandparents must demonstrate to the court that they have a substantial existing relationship with their grandchild or, if such a relationship does not exist, that granting visitation is in the best interest of the child. The court evaluates several factors to make this determination, including the nature and quality of the pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, the reasons for the parents’ opposition to the visitation, and any potential impact on the child’s well-being.

The “best interests of the child” standard is the guiding principle in these cases. This standard requires a holistic assessment of the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs. Courts consider whether the grandparents’ involvement will enhance the child’s life, providing love, guidance, and a sense of family continuity. Judges also weigh any potential conflicts or disruptions that might arise from the visitation and take into account the parents’ rights to make decisions regarding their child’s upbringing.

Grandparents facing opposition from the child’s parents may find it challenging to secure visitation rights, as courts generally presume that fit parents act in their child’s best interests. Therefore, grandparents must provide compelling evidence to overcome this presumption. For example, they might demonstrate that the parents’ opposition is based on reasons unrelated to the child’s welfare or that the absence of visitation would harm the child.

In addition to these considerations, the court may appoint a law guardian or a child advocate to represent the child’s interests during the proceedings. This ensures that the child’s voice is heard and that their interests are adequately protected.

Ultimately, while New York law provides a pathway for grandparents to seek visitation, it is not an automatic right. Each case is unique and requires careful preparation to address the complexities involved. Grandparents seeking visitation are encouraged to seek counsel from an experienced attorney who can effectively present their case in court.

The Law Office of Maurice J. Verrillo, P.C. in Rochester, New York has deep experience in child visitation cases, including those involving grandparents’ rights to represent you with skill and compassion. Please call us at 585-563-1134 or contact us online for a free consultation.


Contact Form

We will respond to your inquiry in a timely fashion. Thank you.

Quick Contact Form