Grandparents enjoy a very special, loving relationship with their grandchildren; the time they spend together is often extremely valuable and meaningful to both. When changes in the marital relationship of a child’s or children’s birth or custodial parents occur, however, it can complicate the grandparents’ access to their grandkids.
Grandparents in Tennessee do enjoy certain limited visitation rights, but they are usually under certain circumstances. In Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), the U.S. Supreme explained that the “liberty interest at issue in this case—the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children— is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.” The Court ruled that a Washington state non-parental visitation statute is referred to as “breathtakingly broad” violated the mother’s due process right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of her children.
If the parents object to visitation, grandparents nonetheless can take legal action to continue to see their grandkids on a regular basis. This highly technical process usually requires legal advice, however, to remove any roadblocks that may present themselves.
Beyond the normal grandparent-grandchildren interaction, in some circumstances in our often-volatile society, the grandparents may become their grandkids primary caretakers for some period of time. This underscores the importance of grandparents’ visitation.
Either way, a deep bond develops between the generations, making the continuation of that relationship even more crucial. If you need help exercising your rights as a grandparent in the greater Memphis area, contact Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law.
In Tennessee, visitation laws can be complicated with a lot of legal red tape. With his wide-ranging family law experience, Attorney Shannon A. Jones will do his utmost to make sure that no obstacle stands in your way when you want to spend quality time with your grandchildren.
Our firm has more than two decades of legal experience in a wide variety of family law cases. Call (901) 390-9041 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
In Tennessee, courts prioritize the best interests of the child or children in addressing family law matters. Tennessee Code § 36-6-306(e) establishes that the term grandparent includes, but is not limited to:
A biological grandparent;
The spouse of a biological grandparent; or
A parent of an adoptive parent.
Under Tennessee Code § 36-6-306(a), a parent can go to court to try to stop grandparents’ visitation under the following circumstances:
Either parent of an unmarried minor child is deceased;
Either parent is divorced, legally separated, or was never married to the other parent;
Either parent has been missing for a minimum of six months;
Another state court has ordered grandparent visitation;
The child resided in the home of the grandparent for a period of 12 months or more and was subsequently removed from the home by the parent or parents (the statute notes that “this grandparent-grandchild relationship establishes a rebuttable presumption that denial of visitation may result in irreparable harm to the child”); or
The child and the grandparent maintained a significant existing relationship for a period of 12 months or more immediately preceding the end of the relationship, the relationship was ended by the parent or parents for reasons other than abuse or presence of a danger of substantial harm to the child, and the end of the relationship is likely to occasion substantial emotional harm to the child.
Tennessee law also requires an initial determination about whether there is a danger of substantial harm to the child before considering a petition for grandparent visitation. A finding of substantial harm in those rare instances can be based upon harm to the relationship between an unmarried minor child and their grandparent when the court determines that:
The significance of the child’s relationship with the grandparent is likely to cause severe emotional harm;
The grandparent functioned as a primary caregiver and ending the relationship could cause physical or emotional harm; or
The child had a significant existing relationship with the grandparent and loss of the relationship could cause other direct and substantial harm.
A relationship with a grandchild is considered significant if:
The child resided with the grandparent for a minimum of six consecutive months;
The grandparent was a full-time caretaker of the child for a minimum of six consecutive months; or
The grandparent had frequent visitation with the child for a minimum of one year.
Tennessee Code § 36-6-307 is the state law that defines the standards for the best interests of the child for grandparent visitations. This includes:
The length and quality of the relationship between the child and the grandparent and the role performed by the grandparent;
The child’s existing emotional ties to the grandparent;
The preference of the child if they are mature enough to express a preference;
The effect of lingering hostility between the grandparent and the parent of the child;
The good faith of the grandparent in filing the petition;
The time-sharing arrangement that exists between divorced or separated parents; and
A grandparent being the biological or adoptive parent of a deceased or missing parent.
Not all grandparents’ rights cases have to result in extensive court hearings and all the technicalities that they often entail. With the guidance of legal counsel, settlements can be negotiated in some cases that help avoid or minimize the amount of time that parents and grandparents have to spend in the courthouse.
As you can see, the laws in Tennessee place specific requirements on grandparents’ rights cases that can make them very difficult for the average person to pursue without legal representation. In short, given this difficult legal template, you do not want to be fighting for visitation on your own.
When you are involved in a grandparents’ visitation rights case, our firm will be able to help by proving the significance of your relationship to the child on a rock-solid basis. We will be able to present all of the evidence needed to get the court to honor your rights to continue your special connection with your grandchildren.
Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, has the skills to negotiate a possible out-of-court agreement with all the parties and also take charge of cases that need to be litigated in family court.
Do you need assistance exercising your rights as a grandparent in Memphis or the surrounding area? If so, discuss your rights with an experienced family attorney to make sure that you can preserve your relationship with your grandchildren uninterrupted and without unnecessary complications.
Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, is a former General Sessions Judge in Crockett County and takes cases involving the rights of children and their grandparents very seriously. Call (901) 390-9041 or contact us online to set up an appointment for a free, compassionate consultation to protect your rights as a loving grandparent.