Not only can divorce impact a child’s relationship with their parents, but also their grandparents. New York laws regarding grandparent visitation are quite restrictive compared to other states.
Grandparents are allowed to request court-ordered visitation if one or both parents pass away, a significant existing relationship with their grandchildren exists, or the child’s parents have thwarted their efforts to begin or maintain a relationship. When determining if grandparents are entitled to visitation rights, the court must figure out if visitation is in the best interests of the child and if an established and beneficial relationship exists between the grandparents and grandchild.
The following are several factors judges use when determining the best interests of the child:
- The child’s age
- The child’s wishes, if he/she is mature enough
- The child’s emotional and physical needs
- The mental health of all parties involved (i.e. grandparents, parents, and child)
- The grandparent’s past and current relationship with the child and parents
- The home environment of the grandparents and parents
- The parent’s motivation for limiting a grandparent’s visitation
- The location of the proposed visits
When deciding if a significant relationship exists between the grandparents and the grandchild, the court will consider a wide variety of factors, such as the grandparents’ current relationship with the grandchild and his/her parents. If the parents intentionally try to prevent the grandparents from contacting the child, while the grandparents are attempting to start a relationship, the court may rule such a relationship exists. Furthermore, if the grandparents cared for the grandchild for an extended period of time prior to the parents regaining custody, this is evidence of a substantial relationship.
Grandparents must file a petition with the court in the county where the grandchild resides. The petition must include a proposed schedule for court-ordered visits. As soon as the petition is filed, everyone involved must be notified, including the child’s parents.