Child custody and visitation can often become points of contention in divorce cases. When divorcing parents fight over money or personal property, children can often become pawns in their parent’s ugly game. In some cases, grandparents are caught between warring parents and end up being denied time with their grandchildren.
A difficult divorce can create challenges for parents who lose custody of their children, forcing them to follow court-ordered visitation schedules and shared custody orders regardless of the convenience or inconvenience. However, what rights do grandparents have when their children cannot agree on custody and deny them time with their grandchildren?
The answer differs from state to state. In Michigan, if a parent prevents a grandparent from seeing their grandchildren, the grandparent may have little to no recourse. If an informal agreement cannot be reached by the parents, Michigan grandparents can seek a court order granting them visitation rights, or grandparenting time, but it can be a tough road.
In order to seek visitation rights, a grandparent may need to clear several hurdles. Visitation denial by a parent may signal to the court that the grandparent is unfit, or a danger to the child, and the courts defer heavily to the rights of parents in making these decisions.
Unless the grandparents can prove that denying them access to the child could cause mental, physical, or psychological harm, a judge may not grant any visitation rights at all. If a fit parent denies a grandparent access, the court will most likely assume that the parent knows what is best for their children, and deny the grandparent’s request for court-ordered time.
In some cases, a judge may determine that spending time with grandparents is in the best interest of the child. There are many criteria on which this decision will likely be made, but in the absence of any history of abuse, neglect, or hostility, it is not always impossible for grandparents to gain visitation rights.
A judge will likely review other factors before making a decision, including moral concerns, the child’s affection for the grandparent, the grandparents physical and mental health, and the child’s personal preference. Ultimately, the child’s best interests will decide the outcome.
If you are a grandparent who has been expressly denied access to your grandchild, you may have rights. In West Michigan, contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this difficult time.