Grandparents’ rights are an important issue in Utah today. If you are a grandparent, you may feel a special love for your son or daughter’s child. You may care for a grandchild while their parents work. Grandparents often say that grand-parenting is more rewarding in many ways than parenting their own child.
However, there’s also less legal control in the grandparent and grandchild relationship. If your son or daughter divorces his or her spouse, your grandchild may move away or it may be less important for your grandchild’s custodial parent to maintain ties with you.
A Grandparent’s Visitation Rights in Utah
How does any change in your grandchild’s parents affect your ability to see them? Do grandparents in Utah have visitation rights?
The answer will depend on your specific circumstances. There are certain limitations and some conditions to a grandparent’s rights in the state. If you are interested in learning more about visitation rights to your grandchild, let’s determine what may prevent you from doing so.
Your son or daughter is getting divorced in Utah.
When your child is going through the divorce process, your primary concern is likely to be about them. Then, you may have questions about how your child’s divorce will impact the bond you have with a grandchild or grandchild. You may ask if there’s a way for the family court to confirm that you’ll continue to see your grandchild regularly.
The state of Utah doesn’t provide for grandparents to ascertain any familial rights to visitation in the divorce process. That’s because divorce occurs between your child and their spouse. Divorce in Utah does not grant third-party visitation rights to grandparents.
You must file a petition in juvenile court to initiate grandparents’ visitation rights. That’s the start of the process. Filing paperwork and telling a judge about your love of a grandchild isn’t enough to confirm your visitation request.
A Child’s Best Interests in Utah
In the state of Utah, the child’s parent is called upon to decide whether the grandparent’s visitation is in their child’s best interests. The law’s rebuttable presumption reflects the parent’s rights to determine if or how often a grandparent should visit the child.
In court, a grandparent may overcome the rebuttable presumption by providing evidence that the parent’s decision is not in the child’s best interests.
As a parent, mother, or father-in-law, you may disagree with your former son or daughter-in-law’s decision to prevent you from seeing a grandchild. Your disagreement won’t allow you to prevail under the law. Disagreeing with the child’s parent or parenting style is not enough for the court to decide visits with you are in their best interests.
The court must decide:
- If you, as a grandparent, are “fit and proper” to have visitation with the grandchild.
- If your visitation to date has been denied or limited by the parent.
- If your son or daughter-in-law is incompetent or unfit to make decisions.
- If you, as a grandparent, were the child’s custodian or caregiver or maintained a similarly substantial relationship with the child, and whether losing this relationship may harm them.
- If your child, the parent of your grandchild, died or was the non-custodial parent in a legal separation or divorce matter.
- If your son or daughter, the parent of the grandchild, has abandoned the child for a period of time, or if they are missing.
- If visitation with you, the grandparent, is in the child’s best interest.
Gaining Grandparents’ Rights
A strong relationship between you, the grandparent, and the grandchild is not a guarantee that visitation will be granted by the court. Prior rulings in Utah show that, unless the grandparent’s visitation will be harmful to the child, grandparents’ rights don’t carry more weight than the parent’s right to decide matters for their child.
Gaining Grandparent Visitation
If you want a grandparent’s visitation rights because you’re concerned about what will happen to your grandparent-grandchild relationship when your child or their spouse is getting divorced, start by sharing these concerns with your child.
Your son or daughter may have a busy life that cuts into their parenting time. If he or she is unwilling to share their child with you, do everything possible to discuss their concerns and reasons. If you petition for grandparent’s visitation and your case is upheld, know that your relationships may be forever changed:
- If you believe that continuing your relationship with a grandchild is in their best interests, do everything possible within your family first to overcome objections. If these discussions fail, a petition to grant visitation with your grandchild may be your only option.
- If your son or daughter died or abandoned the child and you have concerns about losing the relationship with their child (your grandchild), do everything you can to work it out with their remaining parent first. If you don’t reach an agreement with the child’s parent, you may consider filing a petition to obtain a grandparent’s visitation.
It can be difficult to gain a grandparent’s rights in court without showing the parent's neglect or abuse of the child. You need an experienced Utah family law attorney to objectively evaluate your case. TR Spencer & Associates stands by to evaluate your grandparent’s rights case. We will advocate for your and work with your family members to support your grandparent-grandchild relationship.