For the purpose of grandparents’ rights, a “grandparent” means the parent of a minor child’s parent that is deceased or the parent of a minor child’s parent whose paternal rights have been terminated.
Any grandparent may seek visitation with a minor child if the grandparents are “fit” and if it is in the best interest of the minor child, and where one of the following factors exist:
- One or both parents of the child are deceased;
- A parent of the child has abandoned the minor child;
- A parent of the child’s parenteral rights have been terminated;
- The minor child was born out of wedlock; or
- When the minor child is living with both parents and one or both parents have used their parental authority to prohibit a relationship between the minor child and the grandparent.
The Court will not order visitation between the grandparent and the minor child if it determines that an award of visitation would endanger the physical health of the minor child or would impair the emotional development of the child. In determining the best interest of the minor child, the Court may consider the following factors:
- The grandparent’s willingness to encourage a close relationship between the minor child and the parent;
- The preference of the child if the child is found to be mature to express a preference;
- The mental and physical health of the minor child;
- The mental and physical health of the grandparent;
- Evidence of domestic violence inflicted by one parent upon the other parent or child; and
- Any other relevant factor, including the desire of the parent who is living.
The Court will not grant visitation rights to a grandparent if the parent related to the grandparent voluntarily gave up legal custody, or by Court order, or where the parent related to the grandparent has abandoned the minor child – unless the grandparent has an established relationship with the minor child and visitation with the minor child would be in the child’s best interest.
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