Grandparents and Visitation Rights
I happened to be scrolling through social media one weekend and noticed a post that had been shared several times. It was a grandparent suing a daughter for visitation rights to her two grandchildren. The daughter took a picture of the court documents she had been served and proceeded to share her side of the story and how terrible her mother was and so on. Of course, there were hundreds of comments with every opinion you can think of and a plethora of “legal” advice. There are so many things I want to say about this post, but I’ll cut to the really important things. First, I want to point out the glaringly obvious, never ever post anything like this on social media. This stuff is no one’s business but the parties involved and this very well could come back to reflect unfavorably on the daughter in the court’s eyes. Secondly, the “legal” advice that people were giving her, ranged anywhere from half-truths to loosely true to not true at all. Never ever, base any legal decisions (or any decision for that matter) on the comments and opinions of others on a social media post.
Under Arkansas law, grandparents do have a legal right to visitation under §9-13-103. This law allows a grandparent or great-grandparent to petition a circuit court for reasonable visitation rights to his or her grandchildren or great-grandchildren if:
- The marital relationship between the parents of the child has ended by divorce, death or legal separation;
- If the child is illegitimate, the maternal grandparent or maternal great-grandparent can petition for visitation. The paternal grandparent or great-grandparent may petition for visitation only if paternity has been established by a court of competent jurisdiction.
In the case above, in order for the grandparent to gain visitation rights to her grandchildren, she must rebut the presumption that the mother’s (the children’s custodian) to deny visitation to her grandchildren is in the best interest of the children. The grandmother must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following:
- She (the grandmother) has established a significant and viable relationship with the children; and
- Visitation with her is in the best interest of the children.
The evidence required to establish a significant and viable relationship with the grandchildren, the petitioner must prove the following:
- The grandchildren resided with the grandparent for at least is (6) consecutive months with or without the current custodian;
- The grandparent was the caregiver to the grandchildren on a regular basis for at least six (6) consecutive months;
- The grandparent had frequent or regular contact with the grandchild for at least twelve (12) consecutive months; or
- Any other information that proves that the loss of the relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild will cause emotional harm to the grandchild.
The grandparent must also prove by a preponderance of the evidence that visitation with the grandchild is in the best interest of the child:
- The grandparent has the capacity to give the grandchild love, affection and guidance;
- The loss of the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild will likely cause harm to the child;
- The grandparent is willing to cooperate with the custodian if visitation with the grandchild is allowed.
Once the court grants or denies visitation, it is final. If the courts grant visitation:
- The visits may occur without regard to which parent has physical custody of the child. For example, if the maternal grandparent has visitation rights, then it does not matter if the grandchildren are with their mother or father.
- Any other stipulations set forth by the courts must be followed.
If you are a grandparent or great-grandparent and are being denied seeing your grandchildren or great-grandchildren, contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners today to discuss filing a petition to see them. Whatever you do, do not air your dirty laundry on social media. This is a private matter between family members that should be treated as such.