Grandparent visitation in Massachusetts is governed by G.L. c. 119 §39D. This statute describes that the focus of these disputes must be on the child and on protecting the child from harm that may result from the lack of a significant relationship with the grandparent. Massachusetts allows grandparents of an unmarried minor child to petition a court for reasonable visitation rights, “upon a written finding that such visitation rights would be in the best interest of said minor child.”
In Massachusetts, grandparents have the right to ask a court for visits if:
- the parents were married and then divorced;
- the parents are still married, but they live apart and there is a court order about the separation; or
- one or both parents are dead; or
- the parents were never married, they are living apart, and there is proof of who the child’s father is:
- the father has signed a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage” or
- there is a court judgment that says he is the father.
But grandparents on the mother’s side do not need to show proof of who the father is.
On What Basis Will the Court Intervene with Grandparent Visitation?
The Court prefers not to intervene with the parent’s wishes when it comes to visitation by grandparents. However, the court will order grandparent visitation if they see at a hearing that:
- it is in their grandchild’s best interest; and
- they had an important relationship with their grandchild before the grandparent visitation case began; and
- it will be very harmful to their grandchild’s health, safety, or welfare if their grandchild cannot see them.
Even if the grandparent did not have an important relationship with the child before the case began, the court can still grant visitation rights.
The Burden of Proof Lies with the Petitioner
The person who requests grandparent visitation has the burden of demonstrating that the failure of permitting grandparent visitation would affect the child causing significant adverse effects on their health, safety, and welfare. Blixt v. Blixt, 437 Mass. 649 (2002).
It is not enough to prove that the grandparent has a “meaningful and nurturing” relationship with the child or that the child saw the grandparent regularly. Dearborn v. Deausault, 61 Mass.App.Ct. 234 (2004).
Contact our Experienced Plymouth County Family Lawyer at Nasios & Associates
Proving or disputing the need for grandparent visitation can be complicated. You need the best legal counsel on your side. If you are seeking legal assistance regarding grandparent visitation in the Plymouth County, Nasios & Associates, LLC can help. We assist grandparents all around Brockton and Southeastern Massachusetts to understand their rights.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let’s get started on your grandparent visitation issues.