Do you have the legal right to spend time with your grandchildren? Many people misunderstand grandparent visitation rights and how they work.
Explore the facts behind these three common myths about the extent of grandparents’ rights in Tennessee.
Myth: Federal law protects grandparent rights
The states set laws about grandparent custody and visitation, not the federal government. However, most state laws follow the Supreme Court decision of Troxel v. Granville, which prioritizes parent wishes above grandparent rights.
Myth: Any grandparent can obtain legal visitation or custody
In fact, to get the legal right to spend time with your grandchildren, you must show the court that the children’s parents do not provide a safe environment or are otherwise unfit. You also have to prove that you have a close, positive relationship with the child, that continuing the relationship serves the child’s best interests, and that losing the relationship could harm the child.
Myth: Grandparents can ask for custody under all circumstances
Tennessee law establishes six specific circumstances for grandparents’ rights. You must show the court that at least one of these situations exists to ask for custody:
- One or both of the child’s parents has died
- The child’s parents never married or have separated or divorced
- You have a custody or visitation order for the child in another state
- The location of one or both of the child’s parents is unknown
- The child lived with you for at least a year before the parents discontinued contact
- You had a relationship with the child for longer than a year, which the child’s parents ended for reasons other than possible harm or abuse to the child
If these circumstances apply, you can file a custody or visitation petition to schedule a hearing in the county where your grandchild lives.