• Grandparent Visitation Rights In New York
  • July 24, 2018
  • Grandparents can play a special and pivotal role in a child’s upbringing. Unfortunately, whether it be due to death, divorce or a strained relationship with the child’s parents, a grandparent can be faced with a sudden decrease in time with a grandchild, or even a complete severance of the relationship altogether. In New York State, grandparents facing this situation may have the legal right to seek visitation with their grandchildren under particular circumstances. The process for seeking visitation can be complicated and full of legal pitfalls. An individual should always first consult with an experienced attorney to see what their rights are and what legal remedies may be available.

    There are two main components to seeking visitation as a grandparent. First, the individual seeking visitation must establish that they have “standing” or in other terms, a legal right to seek visitation via a court proceeding which, in New York, is defined by Section 72 of New York’s Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”). In essence, under DRL § 72, grandparents are permitted to apply to the court for visitation where either or both of the grandchild's parents are dead or in any circumstances which warrant the equitable intervention of the court. A failure to establish one of the above circumstances will result in a dismissal of the visitation request.

    Secondly, while DRL § 72 provides the vehicle for a grandparent to seek visitation of a child, the court must still make a determination as to whether or not the request will be granted. In New York, the guiding principle used by courts to decide child visitation arrangements is known as the “best interests” doctrine. This enigmatic standard can be difficult for even seasoned attorney to grasp. Simply put, the court will decide custody and visitation based upon what it considers to be in the “best interests” of the child’s overall well-being.

    As this “best interest” standard focuses on the overall welfare of the child, there are few bright-line rules used by courts in making this determination. Factors often considered by the court in making this determination often include, but are by no means limited to 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, as well as the grandparent’s past and current relationship with the child. Upon weighing all of the factors it deems relevant, the court will thereafter render a decision as to whether or not the grandparents request for visitation should be granted.

    If you have questions about your right to spend time with your grandchild, you should speak to a local, experienced family law attorney, who can help you navigate this process.