As we enter the holiday season, it’s not uncommon to be reminded of the lyrics of a timeless children’s song:
“Over the river and through the woods,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Thru the white and drifted snow, oh!”
Unfortunately, situations such as a contentious divorce can throw up roadblocks on that well-worn path.
Just about everyone agrees that it is beneficial for children to have a relationship with their grandparents; the law is a bit more complicated when it comes to the issue of a grandparent’s right to visitation.
Michigan’s Grandparent Visitation Law
15 years ago the Michigan Supreme Court held the state’s grandparent visitation statute to be unconstitutional. In response, the legislature passed the Grandparent Visitation Bill that was signed into law in 2005.
The law gives grandparents the right to petition the court for visitation in specific situations, including:
- When the child’s parents are ending their marriage or have already done so
- When a child is born of out of wedlock and the parents don’t live together (the father must be declared the legal father and be paying child support)
- When someone other than the child’s parent has legal custody (this does not apply to stepparent adoptions)
- When the grandparent has taken care of the child within the previous year, with or without a court order to do so
The Bottom Line
In most situations, grandparents should be given the opportunity to spend quality time with their grandkids but there is only a legal right to do so in very specific instances. When grandparents are being “locked out” and want to explore their rights, their best bet is to consult a Michigan attorney with extensive experience in the areas of grandparents’ rights.