Requirements for Awarding Grandparent Visitation and Custody

Grandparent Custody Requirements

The law on grandparent custody is generally less specific than laws on grandparent visitation. Grandparent is referred to as conservatorship in some states. The courts first consider the nature of the relationship between the child and the parent(s) before deciding on whether or not to grant custody to the grandparents. In many states the law specifically provides custody to the grandparents if the both parents are deceased. If one or both parents are alive, the general presumption is that the parents(s) should be given custody. To overcome this presumption, the grandparents seeking custody must prove that the parent(s) is (are) unfit to exercise parental responsibility over the child. A grandparent will not get custody solely because the bond between the grandparent and the grandchild is strong.

Grandparent Visitation Requirements

The law requires certain conditions to be met before grandparents can be granted visitation rights. In majority of states, the courts will consider the marital status of the parents before considering other factors to determine grandparent visitation. A few states consider the parents’ marital status only if the grandchild has lived with the grandparents for a certain number of days. In some states, the court will consider the marital status of the parents only if the parents denied visitation by the grandparents.

In a few states, grandparent visitation will only be granted if one parent is no more. In such states, the maternal grandparents will be granted visitation only if the mother is no more.

Meeting the condition required by state law does not automatically guarantee visitation rights. The grandparent must show that the visitation is in the best interests of the child. In many states, the court will consider the prior relationship between the grandchild and the grandparents, the effect of the visitation on the relationship of the child with the parents and whether any harm will be caused to the child if the visitation is denied.


How adoption will affect grandparent visitation depends on state law. In most states, if the child is adopted by anyone including another grandparent or stepparent, the visitation rights will cease to exist. In some states the visitation rights are terminated on adoption by anyone other than another grandparent or stepparent. In few states adoption will not affect grandparent visitation rights if the other requirements of the state law are satisfied.

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