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Grandparent and Sibling Visitation
When may a grandparent or sibling petition for visitation with a minor child?

A grandparent or sibling may petition for visitation if the custodial parent unreasonably denies visitation. ALSO, one of the following tests must be met:

  • The parent related to the grandparent is incarcerated, mentally incompetent, OR dead;
  • The parent related to the grandparent has lost parental rights by judicial act;
  • The parent related to the grandparent has no objection, is divorced or legally separated from the other parent, AND the proposed visitation does not diminish visitation by the unrelated parent;
  • The child resided with the grandparent for more than 6 months OR the grandparent was the primary caregiver at some time during the preceding 2 years.
  • The child is illegitimate and the parents are not living together.

Of course, if the child is illegitimate, the noncustodial father's paternity must be demonstrated. And if the child has been adopted by a new parent, parents of the noncustodial parent may not petition for visitation.

What must a grandparent prove to obtain visitation?

Courts will presume that the custodial parent's decisions are not harmful to the child. A grandparent must prove that the custodial parent's actions are harmful to the child's mental, physical, or emotional health.

What factors are relevant?

In order to assess whether the actions of a custodial parent are harmful to the child, the law created the following factors:

  • The preference of the child.
  • The health of the child.
  • The health of the grandparent.
  • The length and quality of the prior relationship between child and grandparent.
  • The good faith of the grandparent in filing the petition.
  • The good faith of the custodial parent.
  • The quantity of visitation sought, and its effect on the child's customary activities.
  • Whether the child resided with the grandparent for 6 months.
  • Whether the grandparent had frequent and regular contact with the child during the preceding 12 months.

A court is obliged to consider each of the above factors.

For how long may a grandparent have visitation?

The law specifically says that visitation need not include overnight visits or actual possession of the child.

Once visitation has been established, it can not be disturbed for at least 2 years, unless there is serious danger to the child's health.

Once visitation has been established, it cannot be disturbed unless there is "clear and convincing evidence" that a change in circumstances has occurred and that modification is necessary to protect the health of the child.

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