In our last post, we began the discussion surrounding grandparent visitation under Michigan law. We discussed the various ways in which a grandparent may be able to have “standing” to petition the court for the right to “grandparent” time with their grandchild, including those grandparents whose child was never married to the grandchild's co-parent. In today's post, we discuss some of the intricacies of grandparent visitation, including the factors the court will consider when deciding whether to award grandparent time to the petitioner – especially if the biological parent opposes the request.
First, the Michigan statute governing grandparent visitation allows for any party with custody of the child to file an opposing pleading requesting that the court deny the petition – which usually includes the child's parents. If parties in interest have opposing positions on the matter, the court will schedule a hearing. During that hearing, the grandparent will set forth reasons why the visitation should be granted, while anyone opposed to the petition will present evidence as to why the visitation should not be granted.
In some situations, the child's parents may seek to deny visitation time between the child and his or her grandparents. In this situation, the court will first make a determination as to whether the child's parents are “fit” parents under the law. If the parents are fit parents, the law “presumes” that a denial by the fit parents does not create a risk of harm to the child. In other words, the court will give deference to the child's parents. However, the presumption in favor of the parents can be rebutted under certain circumstances. Namely, the grandparent must prove to the court that the parents' decision to deny grandparenting time actually does create a risk of harm to the child, particularly with regard to the child's mental, physical and/or emotional health. More simply, the grandparent must prove to the court that there is such a strong bond with the grandchild that the denial of visitation would be mentally and emotionally harmful to the child.
If the court determines that the grandparent has rebutted the presumption described above, the court must then consider whether the visitation would be in the child's best interests, which requires an additional analysis of the grandparent's criminal background, whether there is any history of domestic violence in the home, the child's acclimation to the grandparent, and whether the child would be safe during the visitation overall.
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For more information about grandparent visitation rights in Michigan, please contact our experienced team of professionals today: 248.608.4123