As a Grandparent, What Visitation Rights Do I Have with My Grandchildren?
When parents of a child divorce, separate, or die, the event can be emotionally taxing for everyone involved, including the child’s grandparents. When custody of the child is in question, grandparents may wonder whether or not they have the legal right to seek custody or visitation with their grandchild. If you are a grandparent in Alabama, here is what you need to know about visitation rights with your grandchild(ren):
When Can a Grandparent Sue for Visitation Rights?
Requesting visitation rights is an action that is taken in civil court, and therefore requires the grandparent to file a lawsuit (via petition for custody). A grandparent in Alabama has the right to sue for visitation rights with their grandchild in the event that the parents’ relationship has been impaired by:
- Legal separation; or
To clarify, the grandparent has the right to pursue visitation with their grandchild as soon as the divorce or legal separation proceedings have begun, even if said actions have not been finalized. A grandparent may also seek visitation with their grandchild if, for whatever reason, parents’ rights have been terminated.
In the rare situation in which the child’s biological parents are married and/or living together and the parents have used their parental authority to prevent a child from seeing their grandparent, the grandparent has the right to challenge this in court.
Criteria for Seeking Visitation Rights With Grandchildren
In order to be granted visitation rights with grandchildren, the court must determine that visitation rights would be within the child’s “best interests,” per Alabama Code Section 30-3-4.1(d). The law continues to read that visitation rights will not be granted if grandparent visitation would endanger the physical or emotional health and development of the child. To determine whether or not grandparent visitation is within the child’s best interest, the court shall consider:
- The grandparent’s or grandparents’ willingness to encourage close relationship between the child and their parents;
- The wishes of the child;
- The mental and physical health of the child and the grandparent(s);
- Any evidence of domestic violence; and
- Any other factors that the court finds relevant.
As such, a grandparent must prove that maintaining a relationship with the child is indeed within the child’s best interests. Typically, demonstrating that a relationship between the child and the grandparent exists and has been fostered throughout the child’s life, and that the grandparent has shown love and affection throughout the child’s life, is enough. Alabama House Bill 334 reads that in order to be granted visitation rights, a grandparent must prove “by clear and convincing evidence, that the grandparent has an existing relationship with the grandchild and visitation is within the best interests of the child.”
How an Experienced Alabama Grandparents’ Rights Attorney Can Help
Grandparents are often the victims of conflicts between a child’s parents. If you are a grandparent who has been denied visitations rights, contact our aggressive Alabama grandparents’ rights attorneys today for a free consultation about how you can seek visitation with your grandchild. Contact the Law Office of Ginger Poynter, LLC at (251) 445-8313 today.