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Grandparents’ Rights in NY

Posted on January 16, 2020

Child custody and visitation cases have a reputation for causing drama and contention. In an age where the stereotypical family model of a two-parent household is hardly the norm anymore, there may be a number of adult figures that have an interest in contributing to a child’s wellbeing. If you are a grandparent in that position, it is important to understand your rights to both visitation and custody.

Grandparents have legal rights to visitation

In New York, grandparents do not have automatic legal rights to visitation with their grandchildren. However, if your grandchild’s parents refuse to allow you to see or visit with your grandchild, grandparents do have a legal right to petition for visitation. Likewise, if your grandchild is in the care of Social Services or under other guardianship, you may petition for court-ordered visitation.

If either your grandchild’s parents are alive, you will also need to establish standing in order for your petition to be heard—meaning that you personally stand to be affected by the outcome of the case. Typically, that means demonstrating your relationship or your attempt at a relationship with your grandchild along with his or her parents’ denial or refusal to facilitate that relationship.

Once in court, there is no law that says grandparents have a right to visit with their grandchildren—so it is up to you and your NYC matrimonial attorney to prove that regular visits with your grandchild are in his or her best interests.

Your legal rights to custody

Your rights to custody as a grandparent are somewhat more difficult to establish without the consent or cooperation of the child’s parents. In fact, you must prove that extraordinary circumstances exist that render custody with your grandchild’s biological parent(s) either impossible or in opposition to your grandchild’s best interests. Extraordinary circumstances include the following:

  • Abandonment
  • Abuse to or witnessed by the child
  • Persistent neglect
  • Surrender
  • Extended disruption of custody (such as that your grandchild lived or has lived in your home for two or more years)
  • General parental unfitness

Only when one or more of these conditions is present, do you have a right to custody as a grandparent.

Consult a qualified New York family lawyer when you are pursuing your legal rights as a grandparent

With more than 30 years of experience advocating for the best interests of children in New York City, we at the Law Office of Vivien I. Stark, P.C. understand the importance of a child’s healthy relationship with his or her grandparents. To learn more about how we can help you obtain visitation or custody, call 212-349-1600 or contact us online and set up a consultation.