Grandparents Rights after Divorce or Separation

By Edward L. Buckner, President/Mediator, Mass Mediation Associates

Sometimes grandparents have the right to visit their grandchildren.

Grandparents do not have the right to visit their grandchildren unless they have a court order.

Grandparents and parents can agree about visitation without going to court.

But if they cannot agree, in certain situations grandparents might be able to get a court order that says they can visit.

In Massachusetts, Grandparents Rights are allowed by the court for visits if:

  • the parents were married and got divorced;
  • the parents are still married, but are living apart and there is a court order about the separation; or
  • either or both parents are deceased; or
  • the parents were never married, they are living apart, and the father has signed a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage” or there is a court judgment saying that he is the father; or
  • the parents were never married, are living apart, but the father has not signed a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage” or there is no court judgment saying that he is the father, the maternal grandparents can still ask for visitation. Maternal grandparents are the parents of the child’s mother.

The court can give grandparents some visitation if they show 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 court can grant visitation rights if the grandparent can prove that visitation is still necessary to protect the child from “significant harm”.

There is a court form petition that grandparents file to ask for visitation rights with their grandchild(ren).

The Probate and Family Court has instructions for filling out the form.

In the instructions the Court asks grandparents seeking visitation rights to attach an affidavit with their petition. An affidavit is a written statement that you sign. There is no affidavit “form”. By signing the statement you are swearing that what you wrote in the statement is the truth. The instructions say that the affidavit should describe:

  • the involvement and relationship between the grandparent(s) and grandchild(ren)
  • why contact between the grandparent(s) and grandchild(ren) was reduced or ended
  • the current level of contact, if any
  • the significant harm to the child(ren)’s health, safety, or welfare that would likely occur if visitation is not ordered

Ed Buckner brings a wealth of experience and insight as a mediator to the field of divorce and business mediation. He is president of Mass Mediation Associates and currently Vice-President of The Divorce Center.

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