Every family is different, and the reasons why families pull apart are complex and unique. During a divorce or separation, parents may become distracted by the trauma and stress of the situation, and it is common for grandparents to step in and provide a stable environment for the children until matters settle down.
If you are a grandparent who is caring for a grandchild, you may be wondering how the law protects your rights. What happens when the parents want the child back? How can you ensure that you will be able to maintain a relationship with your grandchild if your former son-in-law or daughter-in-law refuses to allow you to visit the child?
What will the court be looking for?
The court will begin by examining the family situation. If the child's parents are deceased or missing, or if the child has lived with you and developed a significant relationship with you, you may be allowed to petition the court for visitation. Following this, the court will focus on what will happen to the child if separated from you. For example, the court will consider the following:
- The relationship you have with your grandchild is significant enough that the child will suffer great emotional harm if separated from you.
- Losing contact with you will cause other harm to the child in addition to emotional damage.
- You have been the primary caregiver of the child for at least six months, and if the court removes the child, his or her basic needs may be neglected.
- You are seeking visitation from a sincere desire to spend time with the child, not out of malice.
- Your visitation with the child will not disrupt the bond between the child and the parents.
These are only a few points the court will examine. A judge may also consider what the child prefers if the child is cognizant enough to make those judgments. At this point, the court will also consider the fitness of the child's parents.
Where can I find help?
Tennessee laws governing child custody are complex, particularly those involving grandparent rights. Courts across the country prefer to keep families intact and to maintain the parent-child relationship whenever possible. This is why your petition for visitation will likely be an uphill battle. However, with appropriate assistance, your chances of a successful hearing may improve.
An attorney with experience in all aspects of child custody and visitation situations will be able to offer sound advice and guidance. Having such an advocate means you will not be navigating the murky waters of family law on your own. A compassionate attorney will work to ensure that the best interests of your grandchild are a top priority and promote your cause favorably before the court.