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Grandparent Visitation Rights in Massachusetts

Posted by Stephen McDonough | Sep 08, 2014 | 0 Comments

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Grandparent visitation cases can be complicated. Call us for more information.

Family Status

A grandparent's rights to visit their grandchild are limited in Massachusetts.  If the parents of a minor child are married and living together, the grandparents do not have any rights to visitation.

Grandparents do have the right to seek reasonable visitation “upon a written finding that such rights would be in the best interests of the minor child” if the parents of the minor children are:

  • Divorced,
  • Married but living separately
  • Never married
  • Deceased

This provision is from Mass. Gen. Laws c. 119  s. 39D.

Federal and Constitutional Issues Tied to Grandparent Visitation Rights in Massachusetts

Grandparent visitation laws have some interesting history, including involvement by the US Supreme Court.  The 2000 decision of Troxel v. Granville ruled that Washington state's law of non-parental visitation placed an unconstitutional burden upon parents by interfering with their fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

Note to parents: If your kids are being too messy around the house or not studying enough, just quote them this case and they will be so impressed with your knowledge that they will immediately comply with all of your rules and suggestions, without so much of an eye roll.   This never works for me, but let me know if you have better results!

For residents of Massachusetts, the next big case concerning grandparent visitation was Blixt v. Blixt,from 2002.  This case considered the constitutionality of the Massachusetts grandparent visitation statute for the first time.

In the Blixt matter, the child was born out of wedlock and the maternal grandfather filed the lawsuit. Mom opposed, and the trial court agreed with the mother, finding the statute interfered with the mother's right to make decisions about the care, custody, and control of the child. The case was dismissed.

But wait – there's more!  The Supreme Judicial Court (the highest court in Massachusetts) vacated the dismissal and sent the case back to the trial court.

Work with an Experienced Massachusetts Grandparent Visitation Rights Lawyer

Instead of going on and getting into a detailed discussion of constitutional law, strict scrutiny, due process, and fundamental rights, I have decided not to make this a super-long blog post.  In fact, you should be commended for reading this far.

In a nutshell, if you are involved in a grandparent visitation case, you should seek the advice of a Massachusetts family law attorney.  These cases can become complex and will likely require the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem to complete an investigation about the relationship between the grandparent(s) and the child or children.

Remember that for” intact” families, (not a good term, but used by the court) meaning a family where the parents are married and living together, grandparents will not have legal standing to bring an action for visitation with their grandchildren or any other grandchildren for that matter.

When other issues are present, such as for a non-married parents, then the best interest of the child standard will be a major factor, just like in other custody matters.

Contact us for help today!

About the Author

Stephen McDonough

Stephen works closely with clients facing divorce or other family conflict. He is a certified mediator through the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation, a designation that only about 11% of mediators have obtained. In addition to providing mediation services, Stephen regularly appears in...

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