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Visitation rights of grandparents

Under MA law, do I have a right to visit my grandkids. My son is divorced and the kids live with his ex.

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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. For more information or to post a question, visit our MA Family Law Discussion Forum.


I actually just received paperwork today that I have to go to court for grandparent visitation for my 5 almost 6 year old daughter. The situation is difficult and I will be sure to do everything possible to not allow it. I was wondering what you thought of what would happen and what proof I should bring. My ex boyfriend had beaten me throughout our entire relationship. I was dragged, punched, thrown around and choked never mind verbally abused. I stayed only because I had no where to go as I was 16 when I had her and he was 18/19... He's never taken care of her and in the past when he was granted visitation he rarely picked her up. She has witnessed the abuse but had not been touched by him except for an instance where I was holding her and trying to leave the house and her choked me. She is traumatized and wants nothing to do with him or hid family. She remembers everything. He's stopped by my grandmas to try and see her and everytime she has run away and cried that she hates him. There is no longer any type of relationship there between any of them. I had to force her to visit with them initially . December 2010 he was arrested for loaded firearm in vehicle as well as possession of bullet proof vests and 90,000 dollars worth of percocets. After I had proof this was around my daughter I didn't alow any visitation what so ever and my daughter was scared of him anyways. She's told me he would go to his friends house with her in the car to bring people stuff and it looked "like dog poo". My daughter is not dumb and either am I. I have DSS reports of neglect on her for leaving the hospital against medical advice during a food allergy visit as she goes into analeptic shock. He later dropped her off but didn't tell me she was in emergency room. I had to find out from DSS workers who visited at 11 pm in Christmas eve. What steps should I take. I have Post traumatic stress disorder due to his abuse and if there's any contact what do ever it will be harming mg daughter and I

Thank you

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