The prospect and notion of grandparenting time has become a hot-topic in the realm of family law in recent years. What rights do grandparents have to time with their grandchildren? Well, in Michigan, it really depends. In certain situations (i.e. a pending or entered divorce, the death of a parent/child and/or parents who are married and do not live together), then grandparents have more defined rights. If there is merely a dispute between parent and grandparent, grandparents have a major up-hill battle to climb. For more information on this or any other family law/divorce topic, please contact us.
The relationship between children and grandparents is cherished and treasured in most, if not all, families. That said, the rights of grandparents to have time with their grandchildren are not as clear cut or inalienable as one might hope or expect.
In certain situations, Michigan family courts will allow grandparents to seek a court order for grandparenting time. There must not be a parental objection and these situations typically arise when there are issues of the parents’ ability to love, support and care for their children. Otherwise, these situations can come up in the event of a divorce, death of a parent/child or quite simply in acrimonious familial dynamics.
Pursuant MCL 722.27b, a grandparent may seek grandparenting time if:
(a) an action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment involving the child’s parents is pending before the court;
(b) the child’s parents are divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance, or have had their marriage annulled;
(c) the child’s parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased;
(d) the child’s parents have never been married, they are not residing in the same household, and paternity has been established;
(e) legal custody of the child has been given to a person other than the child’s parent or the child is placed outside of and does not reside in the home of a parent; or
(f) in the year preceding the commencement of the action for grandparenting time, the grandparent provided an established custodial environment for the child, whether or not the grandparent had custody under a court order. MCL 722.27b(1).”
There is one important thing to remember if none of the above applies and you are in a situation where you simply cannot or do not agree with your children/the child’s parent(s) and this is a hard truth – the best interest of the child standard is the end all, be all in Michigan family courts. Despite what you may think or genuinely feel, Michigan courts do hold a presumption that a fit parents’ decision to deny grandparenting time DOES NOT create a substantial risk of harm to the child’s physical, emotional or mental health. To overcome this, you would need to demonstrate to the court by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than it is not) that your grandchildren will suffer physical, emotional or mental harm without time with you. This, unfortunately, is not an easy burden to overcome.
If you have any questions about grandparenting time, rights or any other family related matters or disputes, please do not hesitate to reach out to us today.