Submitted by admin on Fri, 08/15/2008 - 09:36
I do not have a good relationship with my adult child, and she will not allow me to see my grandchildren. Under Massachusetts law, what visitation rights, if any, do I have? -- Various readers
The issue of visitation rights for grandparents is controlled by Massachusetts General Laws, c. 119, s. 39D. Grandparents may petition the probate and family court for visitation rights with their “unmarried minor” grandchildren if: (1) the parents are divorced, married but living apart, or under a temporary order or judgment of separate support; or (2) one or both parents are deceased; or (3) if the child was born out of wedlock, the parents do not reside together and the paternity of the child has been established by a court or by a signed acknowledgment. (Maternal grandparents may proceed under Section 119 even when the paternity has not been established.)
To gain visitation rights, the grandparent(s) must file a petition at the Probate and Family Court in the county in which the divorce or separate support complaint or the complaint to establish paternity was filed. The Grandparent(s) must demonstrate to the court that an order allowing visitation would be in the best interest of the child. The Burden faced by the parents, as discussed in Blixt v. Blixt, 437 Mass. 649 (Mass. 2002), is somewhat challenging. In that case, the court found that for the granparents' petition to succeed, they must show that either (1) there was an important and significant relationship in existence between the child and the grandparents and that the court’s refusal to grant visitation will be harmful to the child's health, safety, or welfare; or (2) there was no pre-existing relationship but visitation rights for the grandparents are required to protect the child from significant harm.
Note, however, that Massachusetts law does not provide a mechanism for grandparents to obtain visitation rights in situations where the parents are alive, living together, and in agreement that the grandparent(s) should not see the child. In such cases, the only way the grandparent(s) can visit the child is if some agreement is reached with the parents. (Submitted by the Editor)