Grandparents Visitation Rights

My daughter advised me that she and her husband have agreed to separate. I am saddened by the news, and also concerned that my husband and I may not be able to continue our visits with our grandchildren.  What can we do?"  Worried Grandparents

Before taking any legal action, you need to determine whether you and your husband will be denied access to your grandchildren.  You may be able to work out a visitation schedule with the parents. In fact, they may welcome your invitation so that they can pursue activities on their own, while their child is with trusted caretakers like yourselves. If you are unable to agree upon a visitation schedule, maybe the parents would agree to see a mediator in an attempt to obtain an visitation agreement which is acceptable to all parties.

If the above fails however, you do have a right to seek relief from the Courts. Since 1991, Maryland grandparents have had a statutory right to file a Petition with the Courts seeking reasonable visitation with a grandchild.  That does not mean that the Court is bound to grant you visitation, rather, you just have a forum to present your request for visitation.

Although Maryland's grandparent visitation statute allows Courts to consider a Petition for reasonable visitation by a grandparents, and the power to grant such visitation if it finds the visitation to be in the best interests of the grandchild,  grandparents visitation rights are not mandated. Since the passage of the grandparents visitation statute, Maryland Courts interpreting that statute have held that given parents constitutional right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, that grandparents must first prove that a parent is an unfit person, or that exceptional circumstances exist which indicate that lack of grandparent visitation would have a deleterious effect upon the child , before a child's best interests are considered.

In light of the above, it maybe advisable for you to attempt to reach a visitation agreement with your grandchild's parents.

Published in the Summer 2011 issue of OutLook By The Bay.