Grandparent Visitation Rights

New York is one of the few states to allow grandparents and other nonparents to petition a court for visitation rights. The process is very similar to when a parent may petition for child custody or visitation. The grandparent or nonparent will have to present their case for the court, and argue that it is in the child's best interest to have them in their lives. Siblings may also petition for visitation this way.

Do I have a legal right to grandparent visitation?

In New York, grandparents have a legal right to request court-ordered visitation when:
  • one or both parents die
  • they have a substantial existing relationship with their grandchildren, or
  • the child's parents have interfered with their efforts to establish or maintain a relationship.

This right applies only to biological or adoptive grandparents and does not extend to great-grandparents or other relatives.

What must I prove in court?

The grandparent asking for visitation has the "burden of proof" (the duty to provide sufficient evidence) to show a legal right to court-ordered time and that the proposed visits are in the child's best interests.

First, you must establish legal grounds for your request. If one or both parents die, this determination is automatic. If one or both parents are living, you must prove an existing relationship with your grandchild or demonstrate that the child's parent(s) have prevented you from establishing one.

Judges must give great weight to parental preferences regarding who gets to visit their children, balancing the parents' objections with other factors, such as the current family structure and the extent of any existing relationship. Evidence of animosity between a grandparent and parent(s) is relevant but not enough, alone, to deny a request for court-ordered time.

Once you have established legal grounds to request visits, you must show that spending time with you is in your grandchild's best interest, considering:
  • the child's age
  • the child's wishes, if he or she is mature enough to express a preference
  • the distance between the child's home and where your proposed visits will occur
  • the mental and physical health of everyone involved, including the child, his or her parents, and anyone else that may have filed for visitation or custody
  • your past and current relationship with the child and parent(s), and/or
  • your nurturing skills and attitude towards the parent(s).

The court will assign an attorney to represent the child's interests who is specially trained to present his or her wishes or speak in his or her best interests.

To discuss your rights to your grandchildren, contact Abraham & Jesselson Law Group, LLC for a consultation.