Everyone knows that parents have rights to their children unless a court says otherwise. In fact, disputes over custody and visitation of minor children are common between the parents. What about grandparents though? If a grandparent has been denied time with a grandchild does that grandparent have any rights? A Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what rights grandparents have and when they can exercise those rights in Tennessee.
Becoming a Grandparent
For most people, becoming a grandparent is one of the most amazing moments of their life. As a grandparent you get another chance to shape and mold a child – this time with the benefit of additional years of living and learning that have provided invaluable wisdom you can pass on to your grandchild. For some grandparents, however, that opportunity to denied. It may be because a divorce or the death of a parent has left you estranged from your grandchild. If the parents were never married, and your son is the father, you may also find yourself at the mercy of the child’s mother when it comes to spending time with your grandchild. The good news is that the State of Tennessee does recognize grandparent’s rights under certain circumstances.
When Can I Ask a Court for Grandparent Visitation in Tennessee?
In the State of Tennessee, a grandparent may petition a court for court-ordered visitation with a grandchild if any of the following situations apply:
- The mother or the father has died.
- The parents are unmarried.
- The parties are divorced or are legally separated.
- One parent has been missing for over six months.
- The child lived with the grandparents for a year or more and was then removed from the grandparents’ home by the parent or parents.
- The grandparent and the child had a significant existing relationship for at least one year before a parent ended or severely reduced the relationship for reasons other than abuse or a danger of substantial harm to the child.
- Another state says that the grandparent has visitation rights
If the child’s parents are living together, and they both agree that the child should not be allowed to spend time with a grandparent, the court will not entertain a request for grandparent visitation.
Burden of Proof
Like most states, Tennessee starts with the presumption that parents are best suited to decide who should spend time with a child. That means that as a grandparent, you must overcome that presumption to be successful. For example, to prove that the child will be harmed without granting your request for visitation, you must prove at least one of the following:
- The child had a such a significant relationship with the grandparent that he or she will suffer severe emotional harm if the relationship ends
- The grandparent acted as a primary caregiver to the child for at least six months, and the child will suffer a severe emotional loss
- The child’s loss of a relationship with the grandparent puts the child in danger or risk of substantial harm.
How Do I Pursue Grandparent Visitation in Tennessee?
Successfully petitioning for grandparent visitation can be a complex and emotionally exhausting process. You will need to submit a petition to the court having jurisdiction over the minor child. The parents (and anyone else entitled to notification by law) will need to be officially notified of your petition. At some point, the court will set a hearing at which you must meet your burden of proof. If you are successful, the court will set a visitation schedule. Given the difficult nature of petitioning for grandparent visitation, consider consulting with an experienced divorce attorney about your legal rights and options.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you are a grandparent who has been denied visitation with your grandchildren, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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