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

I'm in Ohio, where grandparents need to insist on improved legal rights, though I do not know how. In 2001 my son ended an engagement to a cheating female. She'd bragged that she was pregnant, a month after they parted ways, but claimed to be "sure" it was the other guy's, based on (limited) weeks along in pregnancy. Some seven years later she shows at our residence unexpected. The other guy, by then her husband, was in prison over drugs. Her mother was dying. She told me that it was "possible" that my son had fathered her daughter, then soon after began allowing us to bring the child, and her younger brother home with us for regular visits. Based on what the child told me in 2009, the mother had also told her that my son could be her father; yet had forbidden us to discuss the matter with the child (not that we would have without verification) provided we wanted continued visits. The mother said she would cooperate with assisting us in legal paternity testing once her situation (dying mother, funeral, ect.) improved. That was completely understandable and we remained patient.

But the more involved with the children we became, the more we realized that they were in an unstable home situation, surrounded by adult drug / alcohol abuse, and neglect and abuse. There were times when we had them for extended periods, not just the weekends, and there was a point when they became homeless if we had not taken them in to live with us temporarily. In addition to feeding them while in our care, we were buying groceries, at first, for their home - just to be sure food was available for them at home. We bought them cloths and toys, and took them out to have fun. We came to love them so much. And they came to love us, as well, choosing on their own to call us "pappaw" and "mammaw".

The mother was always off and running with her boyfriend, and was abusing drugs, no doubt now. She left the children with substance abusing sitters, which left to child endangerment charges. But the legal system is slow, and too forgiving to neglectful parents. I'd helped the mother find housing for the children in the latter part of 2009, but she was quickly evicted. Next I knew, she'd up and moved in with her husband, who was apparently released (again) from prison, despite that she had the boyfriend. Next I knew after that, the mother contacted me to inform me that the children were in state custody.

I immediately called the involved caseworker, and my son joined our phone conversation. We both reported having a loving bond with both children, and that one of the children, the little girl, was more than likely my son's biological daughter. We made it clear that we were interested in a homestudy for possible temporary placement with our family. But the caseworker largely blew us off, claiming that she was only obligated, legally, to deal with the parents named on the children's birth certificates. But how does that fulfill the obligation to FIRST attempt to place foster children with next of kin in the event that parents do not comply with court requirements, so loose permanent custody?

The caseworker claimed it was up to the mother to request a homestudy for temporary placement with my family, and the mother told me she would make that request. But the mother only played cruel games. Because instead, as we would later learn through court testimony, she'd told the caseworker that she had no one willing or able to take the children. Further, for nearly two years after the children were in temporary state custody, the mother refused to include us on her "contact list" so that we could attend (some) visits with the children (along with her). It was not until after the mother informed me that she'd been served the Motion to terminate parental rights that, she finally offered and arranged that my family could attend (what would be our last) visits with the children. That, provided we gave her transportation to those visits - which we did for the sake of the children, as their mother had missed a huge number of visits with them already.

Just before the court hearing began in late 2011, the mother finally admitted to 3 children's services agents, and to her court-appointed attorney, that my son could be the little girl's father (just as we had been claiming all along) and that we needed legal paternity testing, as we had long been after her to cooperate with that testing, but she never had. I have at least read, or heard, that at that point the caseworkers and attorney were "required" legally to inform the presiding Judge. But they refused. And not only did they refuse, but they caused us to be fearful of speaking up, as they claimed that it would "only anger the Judge" if the matter were to be brought to his attention.

All during that time there were tragic things happening within our family. Our newborn granddaughter was born with CDH, a very rare condition where organs of the lower abdomen enter into the chest, and prevent proper lung development, and even cause heart damage. You don't leave the crib-side of an infant in such condition, and survival is a day by day prayer. It was nearly a year before we would bring baby home, and even then on machines, oxygen, meds, and with a feeding tube. With therapists, and a home health nurse supporting us several times weekly, and for more than a year and a half; in fact, we still have nurse visits for little one, now 3. We cared for baby in shifts, as she required non-stop monitoring.

Not bad enough? During that time my husband had to take medical retirement after coming down ill. More, my father passed away after months of illness, and on the day of his funeral visitation I had to choose between attending it, or being at another court hearing for the children; I was at the hearing, of course, as my father would have wanted that, I knew.

Situations change, and it became impossible for my husband and I to take the children into our home. But being unable, and being unwilling, are two different things. The all-or-nothing situation that currently exists in Ohio were foster / adopted out children are concerned hardly serves THEIR BEST INTEREST. I have recordings of the children sneaking phone calls to me, asking us to come and get them, declaring their love for us. Yet these grandparents and grandchildren are another case of wrongful separation, and possibly for life.

By the time one reaches grandparent age they've likely worked all their adult life, and likely have health issues. Sometimes to the extent that it prevents them from caring for a cherished grandchild that needs them (at least in their life). So why can't there at least be visitation in cases where grandparents are deemed fit, even after adoption? What is wrong with Ohio law makers that they cannot see, or do not care, about the harm done to a child when their bond with loving grandparents are severed? To my belief, 'the system' hardly appears to be for the "interest' of the child's well being at all.

MBethTH on 2013-08-16 20:22:36

I'my situation is not unique. My grandson will be 10 in a few weeks. I took guardianship through the court at birth. He has never lived a day outside of our home. Daughter (his mom) has alwashown herself with anger management issues, alcohol issues, (used Cocaine), abused him till we made her leave our home. etc. No attempt at a relationship or desire for one. Just over 2 years ago when she became unstable and told me she thought she was suicidal (she was home alone with 3 small kids that her husband had left her with) After talking to my grandson's biological dad, I approached her about allowing us to adopt the child in our care.

Got ripped apart by my son-in-law - my daughter doesn't have any issues, etc. (all I have heard for 5 years of marraiage at that time was all that was wrong, she couldn't handle being married, etc. etc. etc.

Sooooo.....at her in-laws recommendation, she filed a petition to reverse my guardianship.

We have now been in the court system for 2 years on this. GAL is saying it is not in the child's best interest to be placed in her home. I 'understand' that opinion can change. The child wants to be with us where he has been raised even with my 15 year old daughter. After 10 years, could they actually say it would be in his best interest??

That said, what rights do I push for with regasrds to very liberal visitation and make sure the child is allowed to speak up about it? He currently is lied to, we are lied about when he visits there, etc.

bgray261959 on 2013-07-03 14:40:50

Hi, My name is Janice, I live in Philadelphia and my 3 grandchildren were removed from my care after 3 1/2 years of providing, loving and caring for them. After my 22 yr old daughter and two other grands were killed by a car fleeing police while they sat on her steps, DHS and Family Court Judge decided to take the children out of my care. My story made front page in the Daily News, we were told that there would be a full investigation which never took place. I continue to fight for my 3 grandchildren in the midst of the lost of my daughter and two more grandchildren. After 8 months of fighting for our rights and the love we share as a family, my deceased daughter child was given back to us due to lack of reason as to "WHY" they was removed. I continue to seek help in continuing my goals to obtain custody of the other two, that's when the courts changed the court date without notification to me or my lawyer and my grandchildren were illegally adopted off to strangers. I have not seen them in 3 1/2 years, although I talk to the foster mother as to their well being, she refuse to let me and my deceased daughter son visit or see them. I was not given any due process, denied courtroom entrance before the date was secretly changed, nor was there any family planning for the two. I was told by the Judge that the only reason " he is keeping the children removed was due to the number of family members I just suffered, he thinks I should seek grief counseling". Social workers that monitor the children when they were in my care stated, grandmother (me) is doing well with children after the death of her loved ones. I have all this in court dockets and on transcript, those words coming from one who was out here once a week was ignored. I decided to do the counseling although I did not believe I needed it, due to our Heavenly Father and friends assisting me in the midst of my lost. I did it because the judge thought I should seek it, me thinking it would be considered in showing I would take the offer hoping it would gain custody of my babies back. After taking the sessions for at least 9 months, those words that judge spoke was a lie, he still adopted them off without consideration as to what I had just lost. Then to have me lose two more grandchildren to this corrupted system is gut wrenching to know they are still here on earth and you can't see, hold, touch, love, kiss, cuddle, speak to, etc. That is torture to a family, I love and miss them so very much. This is only a portion of the story. Desperately seeking assistance!!!!!!!!!!

janicebrown7.jb@gmail.com on 2013-06-08 14:56:55

does grandparents rights include great grandparents ?

lizsocci on 2013-06-03 14:56:27

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