Child visitation rights, under certain circumstances, may extend to grandparents as well. In many situations, the grandparents' play a critical role in a child's life, providing them with love, support, nurturing, and stability. New York courts recognize the important bond between grandchildren and grandparents, and have the authority to preserve that bond by granting grandparents visitation rights under certain circumstances (such as the death of a parent or unjustified termination of a close relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren).
Grandparents' rights are of the greatest concern when grandparents have served as parents, even in a temporary capacity, as the loss of the relationship usually causes greater distress on both sides. Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren should consider formal adoption, legal guardianship or an order of custody to formalize their relationship. Otherwise, they face the possibility of having the children restored to their parent or parents, who could then decide to sever the grandparents' relationship with their grandchildren. Since grandparents are most often put in the parental role by parents who are incarcerated, addicted to drugs or otherwise unstable, the chance of the parents making such a decision is generally higher than in more stable families.
All lawsuits for grandparents rights involve the question of whether grandparents' visits are in the best interest of the grandchildren. Grandparents must generally prove that their visits will not be harmful to the children involved. This isn't as simple a task as it at first appears, as some jurists believe that overruling parental decisions can have a destabilizing effect on the family unit.
Courts grant visitation or custody to grandparents only when certain conditions provided in the state statutes are met. Conditions for a grandparent to gain custody differ from those conditions required for visitation rights. A grandparent should be familiar with the conditions for either custody or visitation before determining whether to file a petition to request either from a court of law. Your best bet is to visit Zimmer & Associates to arm yourself with the best legal advice. You will surely need it.
Courts in every jurisdiction must consider the "best interests of the child" when granting custody or visitation rights to a grandparent. In some states, the relevant statute provides a list of factors the court should considered when determining a child's best interests. Other states do not provide factors in the statute, but courts in those states have likely identified factors in custody and visitation cases interpreting the state statutes.