The Law in Michigan - Grandparent Visitation

When can a grandparent seek visitation?

If a grandparent makes a request to see a grandchild and is unreasonably denied visitation by the child’s parent or parents, the law affords the grandparent an opportunity to appear in court and seek a court order mandating that the grandparent be allowed to visit the grandchildren. To curb the harsh effects that such a law has the potential to impose on a parent’s right to freely decide what is in the best interests of a child, the law limits the situations in which a grandparent may seek court-ordered visitation.

A grandparent can request relief if the familial situation falls into one of the following categories:

  1. There is a divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment action pending between the child's parents, or such an action has already been finalized.
  2. The grandchild was born out-of-wedlock and the parents are not living together. For paternal grandparents, two additional requirements must be met 1) the alleged father must have been declared legally to be the father of the child by a proper court proceeding and 2) the child's father must provide child support in accordance with his ability to provide support or care for his child.
  3. Legal custody of the child has been given to a person other than the child's parent or the child does not live in the parent's home. This does not apply if a child has been adopted by a person who is not the child's step-parent.
  4. A grandparent has taken care of a grandchild during the year before they request visitation, whether or not they have done so by a valid court order.

Where must the action to seek visitation be filed?

When a grandparent meets one of the above standards, he or she can bring an action in the appropriate Michigan Family Court. The action can be filed in one of two places:

  1. In a family court that has heard a prior action concerning the children, such as a divorce, custody, or paternity action; or
  2. If no prior action has been filed, in the family court in the county where the grandchild resides.

What happens next?

The family court will conduct a hearing. Initially, the court will presume that a fit parent’s decision to deny visitation is in the child’s best interests. To over come this presumption, the grandparent must show that the denial of visitation creates harm to the health of the child, either mentally, emotionally, or physically. Then, if the grandparent is able to meet this burden of proof, the court will look at a variety of factors to determine the nature and extent of the visitation to which the grandparent is entitled. Courts will consider the following set of factors:

  1. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the grandparent and the child.
  2. The length and quality of the relationship between the child and the grandparent, the role performed by the parent, and the existing emotional ties of the child to the grandparent.
  3. The grandparent's moral fitness.
  4. The grandparent's mental and physical health.
  5. The child's preference, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
  6. The effect on the child of hostility between the grandparent and the parent of the child.
  7. The grandparent’s willingness to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent or parents of the child, except in the case of abuse or neglect.
  8. Any history of abuse or neglect, whether physical, emotional, or sexual ,of any child by the grandparent.
  9. Reason for parent's decision to deny grandparenting time and whether it is related to the child's well-being or is for some other unrelated issue.
  10. Any other factor relevant to the physical and psychological well-being of the child.

Following this analysis, the court itself will issue an order or will refer the case to Friends of the Court to make a final determination and resolve any additional disputes through mediation before the matter is finalized. As a caveat, if both of the child’s parents are “fit” and sign an affidavit denying the grandparent’s visitation request, then the court, as a matter of law, will dismiss the action and uphold the denial of visitation.

Quality Legal Representation

For over 20 years Attorney Chatterton has been counseling families and grandparents seeking to obtain visitation rights with their grandchildren. He is aware of the sensitive nature of the situation and works at all time to promote a harmonious resolution that is in the best interests of the child.

Contact the Law Office of Patrick L. Chatterton today to schedule a consultation.

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