The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is a special bond, difficult to replicate or find anyplace else. New York law understands this relationship and provides grandparents with legal options that make sure that the best interest of their grandchild is being achieved.
The dedicated lawyers at Westchester Matrimonial have the knowledge and experience necessary to help grandparents understand their rights and options when it comes to maintaining or strengthening that special bond with their grandchild.
Grandparents have no fundamental right to their grandchildren, but the New York Domestic Law §72 provides a path for grandparents to be heard by the courts if the grandparent/grandchild relationship is being interfered with or needs to be modified. This is a special proceeding where grandparents can ask the court for either visitation rights or custody rights. The first step, however, is to establish a right to be heard.
To establish a right to be heard by the court, grandparents’ must show the court one, or more, of these specific criteria exist:
- Both the grandparents and the child(ren) are residing in New York State; and
- Either one or both parents are deceased;
- There are extraordinary circumstances that requires the court to intervene.
While every case is different, caselaw has interpreted “extraordinary circumstances” to be specific occurrences. These specific occurrences include:
- Voluntary prolonged grandparent custody of the grandchild(ren) for 24 months or longer by the parent(s);
- A change in the core, nuclear family that requires the grandparents’ intervention;
- Some abandonment of parental responsibility for the child(ren);
- Persistent neglect;
- Parental unfitness
The court will give some weight to the wishes of the custodial parent, but will make a decision for the best interest of the child(ren). When deciding the best interest of the child, the court considers:
- the fitness of the parties;
- the nature and quality of the relationship between the child(ren) and the parties;
- Any prior existing arraignments/agreements.
When seeking visitation, grandparents have to show that visitation is in the best interest of the child. The court recognizes that the grandparent/grandchild relationship is special, but challenging if there is animosity between the parties. The court will help fashion a visitation arrangement that will ensure that this special relationship is maintained, without putting too much stress on the family dynamics that exist.
Grandparents are seeking custody have a higher burden, though. The grandparents must show that the parents have either voluntarily given up custody, or have given up custody by not acting in the best interest of the child. The grandparent(s) must show that the custodial parent(s) has, in some way, given up the right to raise their children.
Determining the best interest of a child can be a difficult, confusing task. At Westchester Matrimonial, our attorneys only have one goal: helping you achieve the best interest of your loved one. Our attorneys will listen to your unique circumstances and help you understand the best course of action you can take to make this possible. At Westchester Matrimonial, we focus exclusively on family/matrimonial law because we believe that family comes first.