If you’re like most grandparents, your love for your grandchildren is like no other. Grandparents often describe the relationship as being better than parenting because they can receive all the love without having to put in as much work and discipline. Unfortunately, the relationship also comes with less control. When your child and their spouse are in a loving marriage, everything is fine, but what if they divorce? Will you still be able to see your grandchildren? As a grandparent in Utah, can you obtain visitation rights?
The answer tends to be more complicated than yes or no. The short version is maybe, and that comes with limitations and conditions. As a visitation attorney in Salt Lake City, we can tell you how to get visitation rights, and what circumstances might keep you from getting them.
How Can You Gain Visitation Rights as a Grandparent in Utah?
When your child tells you that they’re getting divorced, your immediate concern is probably for their welfare, but after that, you may start to wonder how it will affect the relationship you have with your grandkids. Is there a legal solution that can be applied during the divorce case to make sure you get a fair amount of time with them? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Divorce proceedings only pertain to the rights of the splitting couple, and not to third parties.
If you want to pursue your rights, you’ll need to file a petition for visitation with the juvenile court. However, it’s more complex than simply filing a petition and hoping the judge will award visitation based on the fact that you clearly love your grandchildren.
In Utah, visitation is based on what is in the child’s best interests. It’s generally assumed that what the parent decides regarding grandparent visitation is what is best. However, if you and your visitation attorney in Salt Lake City can present contrary evidence that shows that what the parent wants is not actually in the child’s best interests, you could be awarded visitation rights. Courts will take the following into consideration when making their decision:
- Whether the child’s parent is incompetent or unfit;
- Whether you are a “fit and proper person” who deserves visitation;
- Whether the parent has cut off or unreasonably limited your visitation with your grandchild;
- Whether your child, as the parent, has passed away or become non-custodial due to legal separation or divorce;
- Whether your child, as the parent, has been absent for a prolonged period;
- Whether you have acted as a custodian or caregiver for the child or had a strong enough relationship with them that the loss would cause them emotional harm; or
- Whether visitation with your grandchild is in their best interest.
Even if you have a strong bond with your grandchildren, you may not be awarded visitation. A grandparent’s rights cannot supersede a parent’s rights to make decisions for their child unless denying visitation can be shown to harm to the child.
What Can You Do to Gain Visitation?
The first thing you need to do if you fear losing visitation with your grandchild is to talk to your child about spending time with grandchildren during their parenting time. If your child is unwilling to split that time with you, or they have limited parenting time, you have the option of filing for grandparent visitation, but it may alienate you from your grandchildren’s parents. Before starting a court case, think of the strain it could put on your innocent grandchild.
If your child has passed away or disserted their family and you’re afraid of losing your connection with your grandchild, the best idea is still to go right to their remaining parent. He or she may be welcoming to the idea of additional assistance and support from another devoted adult in the child’s life and be willing to work out an arrangement. By dealing with the parent directly instead of simply serving them with a lawsuit, the idea is less threatening.
If a compromise isn’t possible between you and your grandchild’s parent because of a poor relationship, filing a visitation petition with the help of a visitation attorney in Salt Lake City may be your only option. To do so, you’ll have to prove to the juvenile court that your grandchild’s parent is neglectful or abusive, which can be difficult.
By working with an ethical and experienced lawyer at the Ault Firm, you’ll have someone to sensitively advocate for you without unnecessarily straining relationships, as well as give you an objective evaluation of the likelihood of your success. Call us at 801-539-9000 to schedule a meeting with a family law attorney.