What Rights to Visitation Do Grandparents Have in Massachusetts?

  • By:Karpenski & Schmelkin

Grandparent Rights in Massachusetts

Grandparent visitation issues arise when one or both parents and the grandparent(s) do not agree on the amount of contact, if any, between the grandparent and grandchild. A parent’s decision whether or not to allow visitation between a grandparent and a grandchild is a parental decision that is presumed valid and will not be overturned by the Court except under limited circumstances. 

A petition for grandparent visitation typically arises in situations where one parent is deceased, incarcerated, deemed unfit, or where the grandparent has essentially stepped into the shoes of the parents and was previously responsible for the child’s care and upbringing. 

The grandparent must initially show that the parents were either divorced, never married, or that one of the parents has died. If the grandparent is on the Father’s side and the parents were never married, the grandparent must also show that the parent has been established, either by court order or by way of the birth certificate, to be the Father of the grandchild. 

Once the grandparent has made this initial showing, the grandparent must prove that a significant preexisting relationship between the grandparent and grandchild exists and that failure to order grandparent visitation will cause the grandchild significant harm by affecting the grandchild’s health, safety, and welfare. This is an extremely high burden for the grandparent to prove to the Court. 

When deciding grandparent visitation cases, it is neither enough to show that the grandchild previously spent time with the grandparent over visits, holidays, and vacations nor that grandparent was present at the grandchild’s activities and events to show that a significant preexisting relationship exists. The Court will closely examine the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild to determine whether it was akin to a “parent-child” relationship whereby the grandparent was addressing the child’s day to day needs such as the grandchild’s educational and medical needs, acting a disciplinarian to the grandchild, etc…

If the grandparent is able to prove to the Court that a significant preexisting relationship between the grandchild and grandparent exists, the grandparent must then prove that the visitation is necessary to protect the grandchild from significant harm. When the Court considers the issue of the alleged significant harm that will occur if visitation is not granted, it is a very narrow scope. 

A grandparent in a petition for grandparent visitation is asking the Court to overturn a fit parent’s decision about their child. In a dispute between a grandparent and a fit parent, it is an uphill battle for the grandparent.

Whether you are the grandparent seeking visitation or the parent defending against grandparent visitation, you should have an attorney involved to aggressively represent your interests.

Since every grandparent visitation case requires individual attention, you need someone with compassion and experience who has handled these sensitive matters before. Contact Karpenski & Schmelkin to schedule a consultation today at (508) 231-5765 and let us help you resolve your grandparent visitation issues.

Posted in: Visitation & Co-Parenting