Grandparents Rights

Custody and Visitation

The New York Domestic Relations Law allows grandparents to petition the court for visitation with and/or custody of their grandchildren in limited circumstances.

Where either, or both, of the parents of a child residing in New York is or are deceased, a grandparent of the child may petition the Supreme Court or Family Court seeking a court order awarding visitation to the petitioning grandparent.  Additionally, “where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene”, grandparents may petition the court for visitation with their grandchildren.

A grandparent may petition the Supreme Court or Family Court for custody of his or her grandchild residing in New York where the petitioning grandparent can demonstrate the existence of “extraordinary circumstances” which would warrant awarding the petitioning grandparent custody of the child.

The Domestic Relations Law defines one example of “extraordinary circumstances” as “an extended disruption of custody”, which is defined as a “prolonged separation of the respondent parent and the child for at least twenty-four continuous months during which the parent voluntarily relinquished care and control of the child and the child resided in the household of the petitioner grandparent or grandparents”.  However, the court may find that extraordinary circumstances exist even where the separation has lasted for less than twenty-four months.  While there is only one “extraordinary circumstance” defined in the Domestic Relations Law, this definition is non-exclusive and the court may find extraordinary circumstances in other situations.

Proper notice of any court proceeding for grandparent visitation or custody must be given to the parent or legal custodian of the child so that the parent or custodian can appear in court and have their position heard by the Judge in determining the outcome of the petition for custody or visitation.

The Domestic Relations Law allows parents and grandparents to enter into consensual custody agreements or visitation schedules even without a showing of extraordinary circumstances.

Westchester Matrimonial attorneys are familiar with all aspects of grandparents’ rights. Contact an experienced Westchester Matrimonial Attorney today to have all of your questions answered about grandparents’ rights.

About The Author


Jessica H. Ressler has been practicing exclusively matrimonial and family law for the past ten years in New York. She is a member of the panel for attorneys for children in Westchester and Putnam Counties. She appears regularly in the New York Family and Supreme Courts representing both adults and children.