Grandparents and Visitationby Ponichtera & DeNardis, P.C. on 01/28/11
Of course many grandchildren enjoy a regular visitation relationship with their grandparents. All do not however. What happens if a fit parent chooses for one reason or another to prohibit visitation between their child and a grandparent? Can the grandparent force the biological parent to allow visits with a grandchild? The answer is a complicated one, and ultimately depends on the circumstances.
The United States Supreme Court has tackled this thorny topic and concluded that parents have a right to raise children in the way that they deem appropriate, which includes denying a grandparent the right to visit with their grandchild. Under the new standard it appears that courts will only intervene if such denial of visitation will cause significant harm to a child by adversely affecting her health, safety or welfare. This will require a grandparent to prove, for example a significant pre-existing relationship with the child - this will be something more than just seeing a child on Sunday afternoons for dinner or an occasional trip to the zoo. The trend of the Courts in this area seems to be that parents have the right to make their own decisions about their children, even though other family members may be hurt by their decision. So long as a child is not being significantly harmed by the decision - parents have a right to decide what is best for their child. You may agree or disagree with the trend of the Courts. I believe that the thought process behind the trend is that if a parent is prohibitting contact with a grandparent, they must have some good reason for doing so - and the courts do not want to interfere with a parent's choice- except in extreme cases. Contact a lawyer to learn how the Court is likely to view your situation.