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Know your rights as a grandparent when you’ve been denied visits

Being a grandparent is one of the most rewarding experiences of life. You can experience all of the joy that comes from watching a young person growing up with the added wisdom that comes from having already raised your own children. There is something uniquely special about the bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Sadly, there are many situations in which grandparents find themselves unable to connect with the children they love. Perhaps your child got divorced and didn’t secure custody. The other parent, your former daughter or son-in-law, may refuse you time with the children. The same thing could happen if your child unexpectedly dies or if he or she never married the other parent. Thankfully, Tennessee protects the rights of grandparents.

How Tennessee protects the rights of grandparents

While many states expect grandparents to rely on the good will of the custodial parent, Tennessee law recognizes the importance of an established grandparent and grandchild relationship.

You have the right to petition the court for visitation with your grandchild in certain circumstances. The courts will carefully consider the situation and may decide to allocate visitation rights to you, so long as those visits appear to be in the best interests of the child involved.

Even if your child or the other parent wants to refuse you visitation, you may be able to receive it via court order. When visitation comes from a court order, the custodial parent must comply or face potential consequences related to the violation of a court order. While it’s always best to try to make informal arrangements with the custodial parent, sometimes that simply isn’t an option.

An established relationship with the child is important

The courts will always consider the best interests of the child when deciding how to allocate custody and whether to grant visitation. Generally, the courts want to support any ongoing and healthy relationships that can benefit the child’s development.

If the grandchild (with or without his or her parents), has lived with you for at least a year, this generally provides grounds for seeking visitation. Another thing that can create such grounds for grandparents is establishing a relationship with the child for at least 12 months or longer.

Any documentation you have of an existing and significant relationship could bolster your case for visitation as well. If you have routinely provided child care for your grandchildren or have simply been a constant presence in their life (even via phone calls, email or other digital communication), that could show the courts that your relationship is beneficial to the grandchild. If you believe you will need legal intervention to protect your relationship with your grandchild, it could be wise to start documenting your interactions to support your claim.