I would caution them to think about the larger family dynamic. If you have to sue your own child to get access to your grandchild, what is that going to do to the bigger family situation? What I do see with some frequency is, one parent is out of the picture – either voluntarily or maybe they’re incarcerated, or maybe they’ve just walked away from the family – and the grandparents are now trying to get access to that grandchild.
If it’s a visitation situation, you have to meet those standing requirements: divorce, paternity, death of a parent, or the child’s been put up for adoption. You also have the burden of proving to the judge why it’s in this child’s best interest to have court-ordered grandparent visitation. That means you have to have had very regular and frequent contact with that child, that grandchild has to be suffering if you’re not seeing them.
If, for example, you’re a grandparent who saw their grandchild, perhaps during the holidays and in the summer, and maybe talked to them once a month, you’re not going to get court-ordered visitation under those circumstances because you weren’t that actively involved in the grandchild’s life. On the other hand, if you saw that grandchild several times a week – maybe they stayed over at your house, maybe you went on vacation together, you went to their school functions and their sports activities, and that grandchild is very well bonded with you – in that case, the judge will be more inclined to order visitation of that grandchild on a limited basis.
Mary Ann Burmester is a family lawyer practicing in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has more than 25 years of experience in family law.