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Grandparents can be a huge help when it comes to raising a child. However, there are certainly cases where it may not be in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with their grandparents. In other cases, it may be in the best interest of the child for the grandparents to have court ordered visitation. Although grandparents are family, they don’t have the same legal rights that the parents of a child have. This leaves many people wondering, do grandparents have a legal right to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren?

Do Grandparents Have a Right to See Their Grandchildren?

Much like other custody cases, if there is no court order that says a person has a right to spend time with their grandchildren, a person likely doesn’t have any right to see their grandchildren. This does mean that a parent can refuse to allow the children to see their grandparents for any reason, or no reason at all, when there’s no court order granting grandparents the right to see their grandchildren. It is possible for grandparents to petition the court for visitation rights. However, the grandparents will need to prove that, among other requirements, that either: (1) there is a relationship between the grandparents and child and the discontinuation of the relationship would likely cause substantial harm to the grandchild, or (2) the parents are not fit to care for the child. 

How Much Say Do Parents Have?

As previously stated, parents have a lot of discretion when it comes to parental discretion and a child’s relationship with the grandparents, parents do have a lot of discretion. It may be difficult for a grandparent to obtain court ordered visitation when the child isn’t being abused or neglected by the parents. This is because it’s already presumed that the parent’s decision—regarding the child’s relationship with their grandparents—is in the best interest of the child. Utah’s laws grant parents the right to control who supervises their children, so in order for a grandparent to have visitation rights, it would need to be a case where visitation is in the child’s best interest.

What Are Best Interests?

When a court is deciding how much parent time a person gets, they look at factors such as the parent’s ability to mentally, emotionally, and physically provide for the child. They may also consider whether or not the parent is able to provide the child with a stable and enriching environment, and whether or not the parent is willing to facilitate the parent-child relationship with their other parent. In a case involving grandparents, the court may also consider items such as why the parents denied visitation, the grandchild’s age, the death or unavailability of a parent, and the grandchild’s desires if the child is over 14 years old.

Visitation vs Custody

There is not much difference between a grandparent’s visitation rights and physical custody, or parent-time. In most cases, a grandparent with visitation rights does not have any legal rights to the child. Per the court order, the grandparents have a right to maintain a relationship with the child consistent with the order of the court. So, if your court order doesn’t say whether or not you have certain rights, such as the ability to make medical decisions for your grandchild, then you likely do not have those rights. If you have questions about what your rights are, you should contact an attorney.

Legal Guardianship

If both parents are unable to meet the child’s needs, the grandparents can obtain a legal guardianship. However, this is different from custody, and it’s different from having visitation. Having a legal guardianship does not necessarily mean the same thing as having parental rights either. A legal guardianship may be grandparents who are involved in the day-to-day care of the grandchild, who can make medical, and financial, decisions on the child’s behalf. Under such a guardianship, the parents of the child continue to have parental rights until those parental rights are terminated or relinquished. If, for example, the child’s parents were undergoing treatment for substance abuse at the time the guardianship was created, and they’re now able to care for the child, they may be able to resume custody if their rights haven’t been terminated.

When You Need an Attorney

If you’re a parent or grandparent, and you’re concerned about what’s in the child’s best interests, a family law attorney may be able to help you advocate for yourself and protect your rights. When issues involving child custody arise, it’s of paramount importance that your rights are protected as the court decides what is best for the child. At CoilLaw, our experienced legal team is committed to getting the best outcome possible and helping you protect your family. If you’re ready to get the legal advice you deserve, contact CoilLaw today. 


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