Whether you are going through a divorce from your spouse and have concerns about grandparents’ rights when it comes to child custody issues, or you are a grandparent yourself and are worried about how and when you will be able to have access to your grandchildren, it is critical to understand grandparents’ rights in Michigan child custody cases. Under Michigan law, a grandparent may have the right to petition for visitation (i.e., grandparenting time) in certain circumstances, but anyone who is involved in a child custody matter should know that grandparents do not have the same rights as parents. If you need assistance determining what rights you may have as a grandparent, or if you have concerns about your child’s grandparent petitioning for visitation, you should seek advice from a Michigan child custody lawyer who can help.
When Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Michigan?
In terms of grandparent visitation, you should know that Michigan courts do not use the term “visitation” any longer to refer to parental rights and the ability to spend time with children in child custody cases but instead refer to “parenting time.” Similarly, Michigan law allows a child’s grandparent to seek “grandparenting time” if one or more of the following statutory circumstances exist:
- Parents are involved in a pending action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment;
- Parents have already gotten divorced or had their marriage annulled, or they are separated under a judgment of separate maintenance;
- One of the child’s parents is deceased, and the grandparent is the parent of that deceased parent;
- Parents were never married and are not currently living in the same household, but paternity has been established;
- Someone other than the child’s parent(s) has legal custody of the child, and the child does not reside with one of the parents; or
- Grandparent seeking grandparenting time or visitation “provided an established custodial environment for the child” in the year prior to seeking visitation or grandparenting time.
To be clear, just one of the above scenarios must be true in order for a grandparent to seek visitation. The existence of one of the above circumstances, however, does not guarantee a grandparent visitation or grandparenting time, however.
Presumption in Favor of a Fit Parent’s Decision
Grandparents should know that Michigan courts give deference to the decisions made by fit parents. Accordingly, in a petition for grandparenting time, courts presume that a fit parent can deny visitation to a grandparent of their choosing without putting the child at risk of harm – mental, physical, or emotional. In order to obtain visitation, the grandparent petitioning the court must show by a preponderance of the evidence that they are being denied time with their grandchildren does actually create a risk of harm to those children.
If a grandparent is unable to overcome this presumption and to provide the necessary evidence, the court will dismiss the grandparent’s petition for visitation.
Contact a Michigan Child Custody Attorney
If you have any questions about child custody and grandparents’ rights, you should seek advice from a Michigan child custody lawyer as soon as you can. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins for more information.