TJC ESQ is now part of Burns & Levinson


| May 29, 2017 | Child Custody, Divorce

In a divorce, there can be a great deal of fighting. Unfortunately, these disputes can drag extended family in, or distance them from the divorcing couple. When a divorce separates grandparents from their grandchildren, they may wonder what they can do to remain in their grandchildren’s lives. Luckily, many courts recognize the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, and may reward visitation rights to grandparents, if appropriate.

It is the goal of Rhode Island to look after a child’s best interests during a divorce, and demonstrating that grandparent visitation rights are an important part of the child’s life can persuade the court to award visitation. Grandparents can provide necessary childcare and emotional support during a painful time in a child’s life, but they can often be cut off by one or both spouses.

Grandparents do have rights in Rhode Island. They can petition for visitation rights if their grandchild’s parents are undergoing a divorce, to ensure that they still have access to the child. Their petition may be denied if it is determined not to be in the child’s best interests, however, but it is frequently considered in custody and divorce proceedings. Grandparent visitation can be granted if it can be proven that:

  • Grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests
  • The grandparent is fit to exercise visitation rights
  • The grandparent repeatedly tried to visit the child in the 30 days preceding the filing for visitation, and was denied contact by the parents
  • Visitation cannot be obtained without court intervention
  • The grandparent can demonstrate that the parent’s refusal of contact is unreasonable.

In Rhode Island, it is possible for a grandparent to seek visitation rights with their grandchild if their child (the grandchild’s parent) is denied visitation rights. This can protect the child from being completely cut off from one side of the family due to their parent’s mistakes. The child’s emotional and physical needs will always be forefront in the decision to award custody or visitation rights, and a grandparent seeking visitation rights will need to prove that their involvement benefits the child.

If a grandparent’s petition is judged to be against the best interest of the child, it can be denied. This protects the child from grandparents who want access to the child because of animosity with one or both of the child’s parents. If grandparent visitation causes undue stress for the child, the grandparents’ rights may be passed over in favor of the parents’ rights.

The grandparent’s rights to the child are premised on that of the parent’s rights. If the parent gives up their right to visitation or custody, the grandparent’s rights are cut off as well. Their rights are also secondary to those of the parents. This can be abused by parents who can prevent or severely limit a grandparent’s visitation with the child, requiring court intervention. An involved grandparent likely has good standing to obtain visitation rights from the court, if the child’s parents are preventing them from seeing their grandchildren.

Being barred from seeing your grandchildren can be heart-wrenching, but you have recourse you can take to protect your visitation rights. Your grandchild shouldn’t have to lose their grandparents simply because of their parents’ divorce. You shouldn’t lose your grandchild because of their parents’ breakup, either. An experienced family law attorney will know how you can best fight for your rights as a grandparent.

At TJC • ESQ, we understand the precious bond between a child and their grandparents. We will fight aggressively to preserve and protect your rights so you can stay involved in your grandchildren’s lives. OurRhode Island family law attorney is not deterred by messy divorces or complex cases, and with over 30 years of experience in family law, our firm can help you defend your rights as a grandparent. Contact TJC • ESQ today to learn how we can assist you.


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