Grandparent Rights: State by State

What rights does your home state grant to grandparents?

 

As a service to our readers, Grandparents.com has established the American Grandparents AssociationTM , dedicated to ensuring the best for grandparents and their families. One goal of Association is to become a key resource for grandparents who are physically removed from their grandchildren and would like to find a way to visit them. We are providing this guide to grandparent rights in all 50 states. Should you need specific legal advice on your own grandparent rights, consult a lawyer in your home state who specializes in family law and who may know of any recent changes in your state's laws.

Also see: Your guide to grandparent rights

 

State Provisions for Custody and Visitation

Grandparents should check a number of provisions in the statutes in their respective states to determine the conditions for visitation, the factors a court must consider to order visitation, and the proper venue to file a request for visitation. Though many state statutes are similar, state courts may apply statutory provisions differently. Every statute requires courts to consider the best interests of the child before awarding custody or visitation to grandparents.

Courts in a number of states have ruled that statutes providing for grandparent visitation violate either the federal or the respective state constitutions. Several states have revised the statutory visitation provisions, but the constitutionality of these statutes may still be in question. If an intermediate appellate court in a particular state has ruled a visitation statute unconstitutional, it does not necessarily render the statute invalid. The provisions of these statutes are included below. However, if a state supreme court or the United States Supreme Court has determined that the visitation statute is unconstitutional, the provisions are not included below.

ALABAMA
The custody statute requires courts to consider the moral character of the parents and the age and sex of the child to determine the best interests of the child. Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include a determination of whether a parent is deceased, the child's parents are divorced, or the grandparent has been denied visitation. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents. At least one Alabama Court of Appeals ruled the Alabama statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional.

ALASKA
Determination of grandparent visitation rights must be made in an action for divorce, legal separation, or child placement action, or when both parents have died. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption decree provides for visitation between the child and the natural relatives.

ARIZONA
A court may award visitation rights if the child's parents' marriage has been dissolved for at least three months, or the child is born out of wedlock. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent.

ARKANSAS
The custody statute requires that court grant custody "without regard to the sex of the parent but solely in accordance with the welfare and best interest of the children." Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include several circumstances where the grandchild has resided with the grandparent, the child's parents are divorced, the child is in the custody of someone other than a parent, or the child has been born out of wedlock. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of the natural grandparents.

CALIFORNIA
Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include a determination of whether a parent is deceased, the child's parents are divorced or separated, the whereabouts of one parent is unknown, or the child is not residing with either parent. In addition to determining that visitation is in the child's best interests, the court must find that the grandparents had a preexisting relationship with the grandchild. The court must also balance visitation with the parents' rights. If both parents agree that the court should not grant visitation to the grandchild, the court will presume that visitation is not in the child's best interests. Adoption does not automatically cut off the visitation rights of grandparents. Note that a California Court of Appeals in 2001 ruled the California statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional.

COLORADO
A court may award visitation rights if the child's parents' marriage has been terminated, legal custody of the child has been given to a third party, the child has been placed outside the home of either of the child's parents, or the grandparent is the parent of a deceased parent of the child. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent.

CONNECTICUT
A court may award visitation rights if visitation is in the child's best interest. Adoption does not automatically cut off the visitation rights of grandparents.

DELAWARE
A court may award visitation rights if visitation is in the child's best interest. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

FLORIDA
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled the Florida statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional, and the Florida Legislature has not adopted an alternative statute.

GEORGIA
The custody statute does not list specific factors for the court to consider for determining the best interest of the child. A court may award visitation rights if an action is pending where there is an issue involving the custody of a minor child, divorce of the child's parents, termination of a parent's rights, or visitation rights. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent or a natural relative of the child.

HAWAII
The custody statute requires courts to consider the child's wishes, if the child is old enough and has the capacity to reason, and evidence of any domestic violence, when determining the best interest of the child. A court may award visitation rights if Hawaii is the home state of the child at the time visitation is requested, and visitation is in the best interest of the child. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

IDAHO
A court may award visitation rights if visitation is in the child's best interest. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

ILLINOIS
A court may award visitation rights if the parents are not living with one another; one of the parent's is absent, one of the parents is deceased, or one of the parents joins the petition with the grandparent. A court may not allow visitation to a paternal grandparent if the grandchild was born out of wedlock and paternity has not been established. Visitation will also not been allowed if the child is surrendered voluntarily by the parents to anyone besides the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services or a foster care service. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent.

INDIANA
A court may award visitation rights if either of the child's parents is deceased, the child's parents' marriage has been terminated, or the child was born out of wedlock. In addition to considering whether visitation is in the child's best interest, a grandparent must show that he or she has had, or attempted to have, meaningful contact with the grandchild. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent or a natural grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew of the child.

IOWA
The custody statute requires courts to consider the best interest of the child that will provide the "maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents." The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled the Iowa statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional, and the Iowa Legislature has not adopted an alternative statute.

KANSAS
A court may award visitation rights in a custody order. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparents unless the grandparent is the parent of a deceased parent and the surviving parent's spouse adopts the child.

KENTUCKY
A court may award visitation rights if visitation would be in the child's best interest. A court may award a grandparent the same visitation rights as a parent without custody if the grandparent's child is deceased and the grandparent has provided child support to the grandchild. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent, and the grandparent's child has not had his or her parental rights terminated.

LOUISIANA
A court may award visitation rights if the child's parent is deceased or declared legally incompetent, a grandparent is the parent of the deceased or incompetent parent to the grandchild, and visitation is in the child's best interest. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents except in circumstances where the grandparents are the parents of a deceased party to the marriage or the parents of a party who has forfeited his or her rights to object to the child's adoption.

MAINE
A court may award visitation right if at least one of the child's parents is deceased, visitation is in the child's best interest, and visitation will not interfere significantly with the relationship between the parent and the child. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

MARYLAND
The custody statute does not provide a list of factors for determining the best interest of the child. A court may award visitation rights if visitation is in the child's best interest. The factors for determining the child's best interest have been set forth in case law. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

MASSACHUSETTS
The custody statute does not provide a list of factors for determining the best interest of the child. A court may award visitation rights if the child's parents' marriage is terminated, the parents are separated, one of the parents is deceased, or the child was born out of wedlock and paternity has been established. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent.

MICHIGAN
A court may award visitation rights if the child's parents' marriage is terminated, the parents separate, or custody of the child is given to a third party other than the child's parents. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent.

MINNESOTA
A court may award visitation rights if a child's parent is deceased and the grandparents are the parents of the deceased parent. Visitation may also be granted during or after divorce, custody, separation, annulment, or paternity proceedings. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent or another grandparent.

MISSISSIPPI
The custody statute does not provide a list of factors for determining the best interest of the child. If the child is at least 12 years old, he or she may choose who takes custody. Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include determination of whether one of the child's parents is deceased, or a parent has had his or her parental rights terminated. The court must also consider the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent or a blood relative.

MISSOURI
A court may award visitation rights if the child's parents have filed for divorce, one parent is deceased and the other parent has unreasonably denied visitation to the grandparent, or when a parent or parents unreasonably deny visitation to a grandparent for more than 90 days. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent, another grandparent, or a blood relative.

MONTANA
A court may award visitation rights if the court finds that visitation is in the child's best interest. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent or another grandparent.

NEBRASKA
A court may award visitation rights if at least one parent is deceased, the parents' marriage has been dissolved or a petition for dissolution has been filed, or the child is born out of wedlock and paternity has been established. Grandparents must demonstrate that a beneficial relationship exists between themselves and the grandchild and that visitation is in the child's best interest. Visitation cannot interfere with the parent-child relationship. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

NEVADA
A court may award visitation rights if the child's parents are deceased, the child's parents are divorced or separated, or one of the child's parents have had his or her parental rights terminated. The child's parent or parents must have unreasonably restricted visitation between the grandparent and grandchild before a court may award visitation to a grandparent. If a child's parent or parents has denied or unreasonably restricted access to a grandparent, a court will presume that visitation is not in the child's best interest. Adoption cuts off all rights of grandparents unless grandparents request visitation before the termination of the parental rights of the child's parent or parents.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
A court may award visitation rights if the child's parents are divorced or have filed for divorce, one of the parents is deceased, one of the parents has had his or her parental rights terminated, or the child has been born out of wedlock, if the child has been legitimated. Adoption cuts off all rights of grandparents.

NEW JERSEY
A court may grant visitation rights if visitation is in the child's best interest. Adoption cuts off the rights of grandparents, unless adoption is granted to a stepparent. Note that a New Jersey Court of Appeals in 2001 ruled the New Jersey statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional.

NEW MEXICO
A court may grant visitation rights if the child's parents are divorced, separated, or deceased. Visitation rights may also be granted if the child is over six years old, lived with the grandparent for more than six months, and was subsequently removed from the grandparent's home (if the child is under six, the residence requirement is reduced to three months). Adoption cuts off the rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent, a relative of the child, a caretaker designated in a deceased parent's will, or a person who sponsored the child at a baptism or confirmation.

NEW YORK
The custody statute does not provide statutory factors for determining the best interest of the child. A court may grant visitation rights if at least one of the child's parents is deceased or if the court finds that equity demands intervention based on the circumstances of the case. Adoption does not automatically cut off the visitation rights of grandparents. Note that a New York appellate court in 2001 ruled the New York statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional.

NORTH CAROLINA
The custody statute does not provide statutory factors for determining the best interest of the child. A court may grant visitation rights as part of an order determining custody of the child. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent or a relative of the child, where the grandparent proves that a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and grandchild.

NORTH DAKOTA
A court must grant visitation rights unless the court determines that visitation would not be in the child's best interest. The amount of contact between the child, the grandparent, and the parent are factors to be considered when determining the child's best interest. Adoption cuts off the rights of grandparents, unless visitation was granted prior to the adoption.

OHIO
A court may grant visitation rights if the child's parents are deceased, divorced, separated, were parties to a suit for annulment or child support, or were never married to one another. Grandparents must show they have an interest in the child's welfare. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent.

OKLAHOMA
A court may grant visitation rights if visitation is in the child's best interest. The statute provides special rules when the child is born out of wedlock. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the grandparents can show a previous relationship existed between them and the grandchild, and visitation is in the child's best interest.

OREGON
Determination of grandparent visitation rights include consideration of the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, as well as the relationship between the parent and child. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

PENNSYLVANIA
A court may grant visitation if at least one of the child's parents is deceased, the parents are divorced or separated for more than six months, or the child has lived with the grandparent for more than 12 months. Determination of grandparent visitation must include consideration of the best interest of the child, potential interference with the parent-child relationship, and the contact between the grandparent and grandchild. Adoption cuts off visitation rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent or grandparent.

RHODE ISLAND
The custody statute does not provide statutory factors for determining the best interest of the child. Determination of grandparent visitation must include consideration of the relationship of the grandparent and grandchild, including the best interest of the child. Courts may also grant visitation if the child's parents are divorced or the parent who is the child of the grandparent is deceased. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights.

SOUTH CAROLINA
A court may grant visitation if one parent is deceased, or the parents are divorced or separated. The court must consider the relationship between the grandparent and the child, as well as the parent and the child. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

SOUTH DAKOTA
The custody statute does not provide statutory factors for a court to determine proper custody. A court may grant visitation if one parent is deceased, or the parents are divorced or separated. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent or grandparent of the child.

TENNESSEE
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled a previous version of the Tennessee grandparent visitation statute unconstitutional.

TEXAS
The custody statute does not provide statutory factors for a court to determine proper custody. Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include a determination that one of the child's parents is deceased, incompetent, incarcerated, or has had his or her parental rights terminated. Visitation may also be awarded if the parents are divorced, the child has been abused or neglected, the child has been adjudicated a delinquent or in need of supervision, or the child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months within 24 months of the filing of the petition for visitation. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparent unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent.

UTAH
Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include whether a parent is deceased, or whether the parents are divorced or separated. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

VERMONT
Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include consideration of whether a parent is deceased, incompetent, or whether the child has been abandoned. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent or a relative of the child.

VIRGINIA
Determination of grandparent visitation is made during a suit for dissolution of the marriage of the child's parents. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

WASHINGTON
The United States Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville ruled the Washington grandparent visitation statute is unconstitutional.

WEST VIRGINIA
The custody statute does not provide statutory factors for a court to determine proper custody. Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include consideration of whether a parent is deceased, the child has resided with the grandparent and subsequently was removed by a parent, or the grandparent in several circumstances has been denied visitation by a parent. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

WISCONSIN
Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include consideration of the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild. Visitation may also be permitted if one of the child's parents is deceased. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless adoption is granted to a stepparent.

WYOMING
The custody statute does not provide statutory factors for a court to determine proper custody. Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include consideration of the child's best interest and the impairment of the rights of the parents.

Source: Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, © Gale Cengage. All Rights Reserved.

 

Comments

Tjuillerat, bonnikoala94, and Heartbroken grandma - thank you very much for writing, and I'm so sorry about your situations. Though we can't give out specific legal direction, I encourage you to visit our Community area (found at the top of this page), where you can find advice and support from fellow grands having similar problems. Boards like Grandparents Without Grandchildren, Grandparenting From Afar, and Mothers-in-Law Anonymous could be particularly helpful. Best wishes for a safe and happy new year.

-Kris, Editor

KrisFood on 2014-01-02 08:02:15

My granddaughter just turned 1. My daughter is 19, no job, no car, no phone...and I recently asked her to leave my home due to her destructive behavior towards me, my son and my granddaughter. I asked for her to leave my grandbaby with me, but she took her with her. I have been my grand daughters primary care giver, while my daughter has lived with me since birth. My daughter is very verbally abusive and takes it out on everyone in the home, including the baby. While I am at work, she sleeps while baby is awake. I come home to a messy home and it is clear that my grand daughter is neglected during the day. Although I keep a clean tidy home, my daughters room is like an episode of hoarders. Moldy glasses/dishes, dirty diapers, trash and clothes everywhere (I have pictures). My grandbaby was recently diagnosed with a double ear infection, was treated with antibiotics (which my daughter did not administer)...and is now showing signs that the infections are still present. I advised her to take the baby to the Dr, but my daughter is telling me that she allowed her State funded insurance to lapse. So, she is not planning on taking baby to the Dr because she has no money to pay for the visit or the medication. Fighting for custody has always been in the back of my mind, but my main priority is ensuring that my grandbaby is in a safe stable environment, that she gets the medical attention she deserves and that she be treated with love and compassion.

I live in Indiana and my daughter had the baby out of wedlock, the father has been in prison since she was pregnant.

I've mentioned to my daughter that I feel she needs to get it together and treat her anger management, meanwhile I will pursue seeking custody. Of course this subject does not go over well and she is now not allowing me to see my grandbaby. My heart is broken and I feel I need to start the process....but do not know where to begin...how do I prove her unfit? Do I keep a journal? Is it submissable in court?

tjuillerat on 2013-12-31 10:13:58

I am in Ohio. My grandson lived with me for his first three years of life. My daughter recently severed all ties with me due to me standing up to her psychological abuse towards me, and now I can no longer visit or see my three grandchildren. They live in Dayton and I am in Columbus. Is there ANYTHING I can do to get court ordered visitation rights to see them. It is causing my two oldest grandchildren and me heartache and pain. Is there any help for me?

Heartbroken grandma on 2013-12-06 20:30:13

what agency in my area would i contact to find out what my rights are as far as getting visitation of my grandaughter. i was her care-giver for the last 4 months and because of my daughter she is now under the care of cys. she is refusing to grant my husband and myself visitation out of spite and i need to know whre to beging i wnat to do everything legal . i would hire a lawyer but we are both on ss and can not afford one. we miss our grandaughter terribly and we don't want her to forget us. we live4 in Temple, Pa i hope you can guide me inthe right direction. Thank you for listeninhg my e-mail is bonnikosla94
@aol.com

bonnikoala94 on 2013-09-18 12:28:26

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