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Grandparent’s Rights in Massachusetts

imageThe issue of visitation rights for grandparent’s rights is governed by Massachusetts G.L. c. 119, s. 39D. Grandparents may seek visitation, “grandparent’s rights,” through the Court with their “unmarried minor” grandchildren if:

(1) the parents are divorced, married but living apart, or under a temporary order or judgment of separate support; or
(2) one or both parents are deceased; or
(3) if the child was born out of wedlock, the parents do not reside together and the paternity of the child has been established by a court or by a signed acknowledgment. (Maternal grandparents may proceed even in cases where the paternity has not been established.)

In these situations, the grandparent can file a petition at the Probate and Family Court in the county in which the divorce or separate support complaint or the complaint to establish paternity was filed. To obtain grandparent’s rights, the grandparent must show the Court that an order allowing visitation would be in the best interest of the child.

To meet the standard required to obtain grandparent’s rights, and properly make the arguments involved, it is best to have counsel represent you for this petition. You are asking the Court to intervene into a family and award visitation to a grandparent, perhaps over the objection of a parent. The Court will tread lightly and only intervene where absolutely necessary. An attorney can help you to bring in all of the relevant information and craft an argument that gives the Court a true reason to want to intervene and grant the grandparent’s rights.

Grandparent’s Rights are not available to a party where the parents of the child are alive, living together and in agreement that the child should not see the grandparent. In this situation, the only remedy available to the grandparent is an agreement with the parents for visitation. This can be done privately or through an attorney. Where the grandparent is unsuccessful in negotiating visitation, sometimes counsel can come in as a third party and work out an agreement that satisfies both parties.

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