Grandparenting Time: Can a Court Order Parents to Let You See Your Grandkids?
Some grandmas and grandpas live for time with their grandkids. It may be a matter of legacy, or you may have acted as caregivers and custodians in the past. You may be wondering whether a Michigan court can order grandparenting time, and whether you could get court-ordered time with your grandkids.
Can My Child Refuse Me Time with My Grandkids?
You may believe you have a right to see your grandchildren, but according to the U.S. Constitution, the right to control a child’s upbringing rests with that child’s parents. That right applies even if a parent is young, has difficulties such as unstable housing or substance use, or is making choices you disagree with.
That includes the right to decide who does or does not spend time around the children. Anytime two fit legal parents agree to refuse a grandparent time with their grandkids, that decision will be final. There may be very limited circumstances where grandparents can step in as guardians, or serve as temporary custodians during abuse and neglect proceedings through the juvenile court. However, unless a parent has been legally declared unfit, they generally have the right to refuse grandparenting time.
Who Can File a Motion for Grandparenting Time?
Often when grandparents feel most strongly about seeing their grandkids, it is because there are not two fit parents in the home to make that decision. Under Michigan law, a grandparent may ask for court-ordered grandparenting time if:
- The child’s parents are getting or have gotten divorced
- The parent on the grandparent’s side of the family is deceased
- The child’s parents were never married and are living separately (after paternity is established)
- The child is living with a foster parent or other non-parent
- The grandparent served as a custodian of the child in the past year (by court order or informally)
Not every grandparent can file a motion for grandparenting time. The first step will always be for you and your family law attorney to determine which of the above options give you “standing” in your motion. There are other legal routes a grandparent can take to become a third-party custodian or a guardian for their grandchild if a parent is unable to do the job. However, these have their own requirements and can be even more difficult than obtaining a grandparenting time order.
Proving a Risk of Harm if Grandkids are Denied Grandparenting Time
Even when only one parent is denying grandparenting time, grandparents still must do more than just file a motion to overcome the parent’s constitutional right to control their kids’ upbringing. This is called the “parental presumption” – the assumption that a fit parent’s decisions are in their child’s best interests. Grandparents must demonstrate that denying parenting time “creates a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.”
This isn’t easy to do. Generally, a grandparent seeking a grandparenting time order will need to hire an expert – most often a child psychologist – to interview the child and issue an opinion about the specific harm that could come to that child if their relationship with their grandparent is cut off. This high standard is why grandparenting time motions are most successful when:
- A grandparent was a temporary custodian of a child (such as during abuse and neglect proceedings or following the death of a parent)
- A grandparent provides a contact point to a deceased parent’s extended family
- The custodial parenting time arrangement has limitations that could be helped through the addition of grandparenting time (such as respite care for a special-needs child)
Find Out if You Qualify for a Grandparenting Time Order
Most grandparents love their grandkids and want to be around them whenever possible. But when parents refuse to let you see your grandkids, the court process to obtain a grandparenting time order is complicated and technical. You need a family law attorney who can help you navigate Michigan law to maintain your connection to your family’s next generation.
At Thacker Sleight, we can help you negotiate with your grandkids’ parents and file a motion for grandparenting time in court. Our experienced family law attorneys will guide you through the grandparenting time statute, and help you show what could happen if you are denied access to your grandkids. Contact us at 616.888.3810 to schedule a consultation. We will be there with and for you every step of the way.