During a divorce, the custody of children can often become a bargaining chip between the parents, leaving grandparents out of the loop. In cases such as these, so grandparents have custody or visitation rights?
There is no federal law about the rights of grandparents, so the decisions are made on a state-by-state basis.
In Oregon, grandparents don’t share the same privileges as parents. However, the overriding principle in determining custody is the best interest of the child.
Of primary importance is allowing the parents to act in the child’s best interests. Grandparents who desire visitation rights need to show that a child’s needs aren’t being met by the parents and the grandparents will help fill the void. The court will consider whether:
- The grandparents had been the child’s primary caretaker
- The child will be negatively affected if the visitation is denied
- The parents have unreasonably denied visitation between the child and grandparents
- Visitation won’t negatively affect the relationship between the parents and child
- The parents have at one time encouraged or consented to the relationship between the child and grandparents
Oregon case law is clear: parent rights take precedence over any grandparent rights. Each case is different, but the deciding factor is if the child’s needs can be better met by the grandparents.
A grandparent can file a motion for visitation within 30 days of the filing of a petition to become a stepparent. A court will award grandparent visitation if evidence shows:
- Grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests
- A substantial relationship existed between the child and grandparents
- Grandparent visitation won’t interfere with the child-stepparent relationship
It’s important to note that when the parental rights have been severed, the biological grandparents lose their rights regarding the child as well.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need advice on visitation rights, it is in your best interests to consult a qualified, experienced attorney.