Can grandparents seek visitation rights?

grandparents with grandchildren

Family dynamics can be complex, and sometimes, grandparents find themselves in situations where they want to establish visitation rights with their grandchildren. Whether due to divorce, family estrangement, or other circumstances, this raises an important legal question: Can a grandparent get visitation rights in New Hampshire? In this  blog post, we will delve into this question, exploring why a grandparent might ask for visitation and what the likelihood of the courts granting it is.

Why Would a Grandparent Seek Visitation Rights?

  1. Maintaining a Bond: Grandparents often play a crucial role in a child’s life. They provide emotional support, stability, and a sense of family history. When parents separate or divorce, the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren may be at risk. In such cases, grandparents may seek visitation rights to maintain their bond with their grandchildren.
  2. Parental Incapacity or Death: In some unfortunate situations, a child’s parent(s) may be unable to provide proper care, due to issues such as addiction, incarceration, or mental health problems. In cases where one or both parents are deceased, grandparents may wish to ensure the child’s well-being by requesting visitation rights.
  3. Child’s Best Interests: Courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody and visitation decisions. If grandparents can demonstrate that their involvement is in the child’s best interests, they may have a compelling case. Factors such as the child’s emotional well-being and the stability of the grandparents’ home can be significant in this context.

The Legal Framework in New Hampshire:

In New Hampshire, the legal framework for grandparent visitation rights is defined by state law. Grandparents do have the right to petition the court for visitation with their grandchildren, but the likelihood of success depends on various factors.

  1. Grandparents Can Only Get Visitation Rights in Certain Circumstances: Although the New Hampshire statute is not worded well, many courts interpret it to mean that a petition for grandparent rights can only be brought if either 1. there is a divorce or parenting petition filed; or 2. one of the parents has died. If the parents are in an intact relationship, many courts interpret the statute to mean the grandparents cannot file for grandparent rights.
  2. Presumption in Favor of Parental Decision: New Hampshire law generally presumes that parents have the right to make decisions regarding their child’s upbringing, including visitation. Courts are cautious about interfering with these parental rights unless there are compelling reasons to do so.
  3. Best Interests of the Child: As mentioned earlier, the courts prioritize the best interests of the child when considering grandparent visitation requests. Grandparents must prove that visitation is beneficial for the child’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being.
  4. Parental Rights and Wishes: Courts consider the wishes of the child’s parents. If both parents are against grandparent visitation, it may be more challenging to obtain court-ordered visitation rights. However, if one parent supports the request, it could strengthen the grandparents’ case.
  5. Previous Relationship: The nature and extent of the grandparent-grandchild relationship are essential. If the grandparents have a close and meaningful history of involvement in the child’s life, it may carry more weight in court.
  6. Significant Disruption: Courts may be more inclined to grant visitation rights if there is evidence that denying visitation would cause significant harm or disruption to the child’s life. This could be due to the child’s close relationship with the grandparents or other factors that indicate the child’s well-being is at risk.
  7. Abuse or Neglect Allegations: If there are allegations of abuse or neglect against the child’s parents, grandparents may have a stronger case for visitation rights, as long as they can demonstrate that their involvement is in the child’s best interests and does not further jeopardize their safety.
  8. Difference Between Grandparent Rights and Grandparent Acting as Legal Guardian: Grandparent rights only permit the grandparent to have limited visitation with the child, while the parent or other legal  guardian remains as the primary caretaker. On the other hand, if the parent is unfit, a grandparent, like any other appropriate party, can request that they be appointed as the guardian of the child. The key difference is that a guardianship must be based on a finding of lack of fitness by the parent. Whereas with grandparent rights, the parents may be perfectly fit but the court still sees a reason to order visitation to the grandparent in order to foster that relationship.

In New Hampshire, grandparents can seek visitation rights, but success is not guaranteed. Courts will carefully evaluate each case based on the best interests of the child and the specific circumstances involved. Grandparents must be prepared to demonstrate the importance of their relationship with their grandchildren and how visitation would contribute positively to the child’s life. While it may be challenging, with strong evidence and legal representation, grandparents can potentially secure visitation rights and continue to play a meaningful role in their grandchildren’s lives.

For answers to the question, can grandparents seek visitation rights? Contact us Today. Our experienced family legal team can help you navigate the best course of action for your needs.

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