Grandparent Visitation Rights

Most grandparents are eager to spend as much time with their grandchildren as possible. They’re famous for “spoiling” their children’s offspring and indulging their every whim. When they live near the child’s parents, it’s like having a built-in (and free) babysitter. For most families, this seems like a match made in heaven, but other families want to distance themselves from the grandparents.

What happens when the child’s parents deny visitation privileges? Is there any recourse?

By law in Colorado, grandparents have no right to demand visitation unless a specific set of circumstances are met. Grandparents have challenged their child’s parents in court, and they will often lose if they cannot meet the requirements of the law.

The New Legal Standard for Grandparent Visitation

The desire for grandparents to see their grandchildren is so strong that one case even went to the Supreme Court. In the year 2000, the Supreme Court heard the case of Troxel v. Granville. Ultimately the courts decided that overruling parents’ wishes was unconstitutional. The justices argued that as long as parents were deemed fit, it was assumed that they were looking after the best interests of their child. If the parents thought it was unsafe or unwise schedule a visit with grandma on a Sunday afternoon, then it is their right to make that choice.

Circumstances that Allow for Visitation

If certain conditions are met, grandparents may petition the court for the right to see their grandchildren.

There are three basic tenets, and one of three must be met before petitioning the family law court:

  1. The parents must be legally separated. Just because they are in separate homes does not automatically qualify this condition. Legal paperwork must have been filed.
  2. The child is in someone else’s legal custody.
  3. The child’s parent has died. In this circumstance, the grandparent petitioning must be the parent of the deceased.

The Bottom Line

Since this landmark case, grandparent visitation has become more challenging than ever. Often, what decides the outcome is the judge assigned to hear the plea. To win visitation, the grandparents would have to prove the following:

  • They’ve had a critical role in the child’s life and upbringing.
  • There must be compelling evidence that the parent is acting unreasonably.

The priority of the courts is to act in the best interest of the child while upholding the laws set forth by the U.S. Constitution. If visitation is granted, keep in mind that the courts can withdraw privileges or modify them at any time if they feel that the child’s interests or well-being are at stake.