Saratoga Springs Grandparents’ Rights Lawyer
A close and loving relationship with your grandchildren is one of life’s greatest gifts. As a grandparent, you may be in a unique position to contribute to the social, intellectual, and personal development of your grandchildren. Unfortunately, certain life-changing events, such as a divorce, separation, or the death of a parent, could impact your time with your grandchildren, especially if a surviving or custodial parent does not want you in the children’s lives.
In New York, you may request court-ordered visitation with the help of a compassionate family attorney, and in certain circumstances, you may even have the right to seek their custody. A Saratoga Springs grandparents’ rights lawyer could explain your legal options and work to preserve the precious grandparent-grandchild relationship.
When Can a Grandparent Legally Request Visitation?
Before determining whether there is a right to custody or visitation with a child, the grandparents must first establish that they have legal standing to participate in a court proceeding, under New York Domestic Relations Law § 72. Grandparents have standing if one or both of the child’s parents is deceased, or, if the parents are alive, if equitable circumstances exist that make it appropriate for the court to consider grandparent custody or visitation.
When assessing whether equitable circumstances exist, a court must consider several factors, including, but not limited to:
- The child’s age
- The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough to express a preference
- The distance between the child’s home and the location of the proposed visits
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved, including the child, the parents, and the grandparents
- The grandparents’ past and current relationship with the child
- The grandparents’ nurturing skills toward the child
- The grandparents’ involvement with, and attitude toward, the parents
Grandparents requesting visitation have 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. A local grandparents’ rights attorney could help gather the necessary evidence to meet the burden of proof and strengthen the grandparents’ chance to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren.
What if a Grandchild is Not Safe in a Parent’s Custody?
In certain extreme circumstances, a grandparent may seek custody of a grandchild.
These circumstances include the parents being deceased, mentally or physically unfit to raise the child, or if the parents have relinquished custody to the grandparents for a continuous period of twenty-four months or more.
In some situations, a state agency may become involved if the parents have been accused of abuse or neglect. It is essential to understand what actions the agency may take regarding the child and how grandparents can offer themselves as resources. A nearby attorney experienced in grandparents’ rights could help navigate the court system and communicate with any state agencies who may have interceded in the child’s case, including New York’s Office of Child and Family Services.
The Legal Process for Seeking Custody or Visitation
Grandparents seeking time with, or custody of, their grandchild must file a written request, known as a petition, in the county where the child lives. In the petition, they must state the reasons they are seeking custody, or propose the visitation schedule they would like to have.
As the case proceeds, the court will assign an attorney to advocate for the child’s best interests and present their wishes to the court. A legal advocate may prepare and file a petition, give the required statutory notice to the child’s parents, and assist the grandparents in complying with any requests made by the child’s attorney.
Learn the Benefits of a Grandparents’ Rights Attorney
Courts give significant weight to the preferences of parents in child custody or visitation disputes. Because of this preference, a grandparent may have an uphill battle to obtain court-ordered time with a grandchild, but it is possible under the law in New York.
To successfully pursue a grandparent visitation or custody case, you should request the services of an experienced grandparents’ rights lawyer who could explain the complex legal process. Contact our firm today to discuss the specifics of your case.