Television dramas like HBO’s Big Little Lies make it seem like a grandparent could easily petition for custody of his or her grandchildren. Real life doesn’t always get quite so grandiose, however. In Michigan, grandparents are only awarded custody of a grandchild if it is determined by the court that the parents are unfit to care for the child. There are shades of gray, however.
Granting Grandparent Visitation
If a grandparent fights for custody of a grandchild and is not awarded this role, an order for visitation, also known as grandparenting time, can be entered. Or a grandparent can petition the court for visitation, with or without a custody battle, under the Michigan Grandparent Visitation Bill.
At least one of the circumstances must apply:
- The grandparent has been the child’s caregiver within the past year.
- The child was born out of wedlock and the parents do not live together.
- Parents of the child have filed for divorce.
- Someone other than the parents has legal custody.
- The child does not live with the parents.
When a grandparent feels they have been wrongfully denied visitation with the grandchild and fits into one of the above categories, they can work with a Michigan lawyer to petition the court for visitation.
Keep in mind, though, that grandparents don’t always have the right to visitation with their grandchildren. The courts typically assume there is a reason a grandparent has been kept away from their grandchild and that the reason is in the child’s best interests. A grandparent must prove otherwise and show evidence that the child could suffer mentally, physically, or emotionally by not having time with them.
Levels of Grandparent Time
Should grandparent visitation be granted, the type of visitation that is awarded will vary depending on matters such as:
- The child’s preferences
- Emotional ties and affection between the child and grandparent
- The role of the grandparent in the child’s life
- The quality and length of relationship between grandparent and child
- The mental and physical health of the grandparent
- Hostile relationship between parent and grandparent
- Any history of abuse
- Moral fitness of the grandparent
- Willingness of the grandparent to foster a good child-parent relationship
Navigating Child Custody
Courts generally favor parents and assume that a child being with his or her parents is in the best interests of the child unless proven otherwise. If a grandparent feels strongly that their grandchild is in dire circumstances because of their living situation with their parents, they can pursue third-party custodial rights, even if the parent objects.
If you want to protect your child from his or her grandparent, or you are a grandparent who wants the support of the court to get custody or visitation with your grandchild, contact the family law attorneys at Michigan Divorce Help in Macomb, Michigan, to discuss your case.
Be sure to schedule your free initial consultation quickly to avoid the possibility of “conflicting out,” especially if you feel the other party in your situation will see as many attorneys as possible to discuss their case and prevent you from retaining that lawyer’s help.