Often times when people think of child custody and visitation disputes, the rights of grandparents are often overlooked. In Michigan, there is a statute specifically designed to address the issue of grandparenting time.
Under Michigan law, a grandparent has a statutory right to seek a grandparenting time order in any of the following circumstances:
- When an action for divorce, separate maintenance or annulment involving the child's parents is pending before the court
- When the child's parents are divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance or have had their marriage annulled
- When the child's parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased
- When the child's parents have never been married, they are not residing in the same household and paternity has been established
- When legal custody of the child has been given to a person other than the child's parent, or the child is placed outside of and does not reside in the home of a parent
- When in the preceding year, the grandparent provided an established custodial environment for the child, whether or not the grandparent had custody under a court order
It is important to note that Michigan law only guarantees grandparents the right to seek grandparenting time and not actual grandparenting time itself. In fact, great weight and deference is given to the wishes of the parents. Notably, it is presumed that one fit parent's choice to deny time to a grandparent doesn't create a substantial risk of harm to the child's physical or mental well-being. Thus, for a grandparent to obtain a grandparenting time order they must rebut this presumption by presenting evidence that the parent's decision to deny grandparenting time does in fact create a risk of harm to the child's physical or mental health.
Moreover, there is absolute deference if both fit parents sign an affidavit stating they both wish to deny grandparenting time, and the court must automatically dismiss the grandparent's request. Ultimately, the parents' wishes are pivotal to the court's decision regarding grandparenting time.