Once upon a time it was considered standard fare for the grandparents of a minor child to be intricately involved in raising the child. Today, we have moved so far away from that standard in the United States that many grandparents rarely ever see their grandchildren. Often, the reason for this is simple geography – the parents and grandparents simply live too far away from each other to have regular contact. Sometimes though, the reason is more complex and has more to do with the relationship (or lack thereof) between the parents and grandparents than it does any practical consideration. For a grandparent, this lack of contact can be emotionally traumatic. If you are a grandparent and your son-in-law/daughter-in-law won’t let you spend time with your grandchildren you are undoubtedly wondering “Do grandparents have any rights in Tennessee?”
The good news is that the answer is “yes,” as a grandparent you may have rights to your grandchild. You will, however, likely have an uphill legal battle if you wish to pursue your rights to see your grandchild. The reason for this starts with the fact that your rights as a grandparent are not guaranteed in Tennessee. The 1993 case of Hawk v. Hawk, 855 S.W.2d (Tenn. 1993), held that there is a parental right to privacy which limits the courts right to interfere with parents’ decisions regarding their children. In other words, the general rule is that the parents of a minor child get to decide who can, and who cannot, see the child. The 1993 case does not mean, however, that all hope is lost if you are being denied access to a grandchild. It does mean though that a court will have to decide the matter.
A grandparent who wishes to pursue visitation with a grandchild must file a petition with the appropriate court and request a hearing on the matter. At the hearing, the court will take a number of factors into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant visitation to a grandparent, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Are the parents of the child still together?
- Did the grandparent ever serve as the child’s primary caregiver?
- Is a parent missing or not living in the home?
- Are the parents fit to determine custody of the child?
- Would denying the petition cause substantial emotional harm to the child?
After hearing testimony and reviewing evidence submitted at the hearing he court will decide whether or not to grant the grandparent’s petition for access to the child.
If you are being denied access to a grandchild, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee family law attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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