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Enforcing your rights as a grandparent during a TN divorce

There are few things as heartbreaking as watching your child go through a divorce. After all, when your kid decided to get married, you probably hoped that the relationship would last for life. Sometimes, however, that just isn't how things work out. Now, in addition to trying to support your struggling child, you also have to grieve your own losses.

Not only are you out a son-in-law or daughter-in-law, in many cases you could find yourself cut off from access to your grandchildren. If your child's ex has full custody and a heart full of resentment for your family, you may not have a chance to talk to, visit with or see your grandchildren. Thankfully, the state of Tennessee recognizes that the best interests of the children in many divorces involves a continued relationship with extended family members, including grandparents.

If you are a biological or adoptive grandparent, you have rights

Many states do not recognize the rights of grandparents, but Tennessee is not one of them. You have the right under state law to petition the family courts for visitation rights in a variety of situations, including a divorce that ends with your child not having custody of the children.

In cases where the father or mother (your child) has died, when the grandchild has lived with your family for at least 12 months, when you've had a significant existing relationship with the child for at least 12 months or in situations where severing that grandparent-child relationship could harm the child, the state supports your right to see your grandchild and maintain a relationship.

If you have loved, visited, talked to and supported your grandchild for years, that relationship is valuable both to you and the child. The courts recognize that fact.

These laws also apply to cases where parents were never married

Maybe your child had children with someone he or she never married. It's a relatively common thing these days. However, if the relationship fails, that could mean your child has to fight for the right to visitation. In some cases, your child may give up, deciding it isn't worth the effort. That can leave you cut off from your grandchildren as surely as an actual divorce.

The state law does not restrict the right to petition for visitation to only those whose grandchildren were born to a married couple. You still have the right to ask for visitation. In many cases, the courts will permit visitation, including holiday visits, virtual visitation if the grandchildren live far away or even overnight visitation in some cases. Don't give up on your relationship with your grandchildren! You have a right to seek a continued relationship via court-ordered visitation if the custodial parent refuses to work with you.

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