In some divorces, amidst all the family pain and disruption, one or both spouses may decide to prevent grandparents from seeing their grandchildren, no matter how the children or the grandparents feel about the interrupted relationships. The American Grandparents AssociationTM (AGA), founded by grandparents.com, quoted Richard Kent, author of Solomon’s Choice: A Guide to Custody for Ex-Husbands, Spurned Partners, & Forgotten Grandparents: “The state of grandparents’ rights is terrible. … Even if they had what most people would consider a classic grandparent-grandchild relationship and, let’s say, saw their grandchild every Sunday afternoon … they are treated no differently than strangers.”
Grandparents’ visitation rights have long been a murky area of the law, rarely recognized as deserving of legal protection. Although grandparents’ rights are not considered to be constitutional, in recent years state legislatures have passed statutes that allow court-mandated visitation for grandparents. Courts in every jurisdiction must consider the best interests of the child when granting custody or visitation rights to a grandparent.
Grandparent visitation rights vary from state to state, and New Hampshire is considered to be one of the more restrictive states. In NH, natural and adoptive grandparents can petition the court for “reasonable” visitation with a grandchild when that grandchild’s parents are unmarried, divorced or separated, or when one parent is deceased or has given up or lost parental rights.
Grandparents can petition a court for visitation rights when a child lacks a nuclear family as long as their access to the child hadn’t been restricted earlier. If the parent of the minor child is unwed, then any grandparent filing a petition for visitation must attach proof of legitimation by the parent or establishment of paternity to the petition for visitation. When the grandchild lives in an intact “nuclear” family, and both parents deny access to the child, the grandparents do not have standing to file for visitation.
In New Hampshire, grandparents may sometimes enjoy rights to visitation even over the objection of the parents. Earlier this year, AP reported (Concord Monitor) that the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a couple who sought visitation rights with their grandchildren four years after their son-in-law had died had the right to petition for visitation rights. A lower court had agreed with their daughter’s argument that they had no standing to petition, and the Supreme Court reversed that decision.
“As the number of grandparents serving as the primary caregivers for grandchildren continues to rise, it is likely that New Hampshire will see an increase in grandparent visitation issues in the years to come,” wrote Amy Goodridge in the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Bar News.
The seasoned family law and divorce lawyers at the McGrath Law Firm, founded by attorney Peter McGrath, will walk you through every step of the challenging divorce process to address your concerns and achieve your goals as efficiently as possible. From spousal support, child support, fault, and equitable division of property and debt to valuations, pre-nuptial agreements, and restraining orders, the experienced attorneys at McGrath Law Firm have a successful track record in all aspects of divorce law. Call us to schedule your consultation at (800) 283-1380.