In New York, grandparents have the right to ask the court for visitation or, in exceptional cases, custody of their grandchildren.
Grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation or custody as long as they have “standing” to do so. “Standing” refers to the fact that certain requirements must be met before an individual can bring an action in court. In the case of a grandparent’s request for visitation or custody, a grandparent has standing if either or both of the child's parents are deceased, or other extraordinary circumstances justify the court's decision to intervene and hear the matter.
The Law Offices of Stacy Sabatini, Esq., helps grandparents in New York with custody and visitation legal matters. Located in New City, New York, family law attorney Stacy Sabatini represents clients throughout Rockland County, Orange County, and Westchester County. To schedule a FREE consultation, please fill out our secure online form or call (845) 243-0295 today.
For a Grandparent seeking visitation in New York, Domestic Relations Law §72 and case law provides for grandparent visitation if at least one parent is deceased or "where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene." In making this determination, the Court must consider the fact that a parent has objected to the grandparent/child contact and assess the nature and basis for the objection. Further, the grandparent must establish an existing relationship with the grandchild or, minimally, a sufficient effort to establish one, and thus deserving of the court’s protection.
For a Grandparent seeking custody in New York, it is well settled law that, as between a parent and a non-parent, the parent has a superior right to custody that cannot be denied unless the non-parent can establish that the parent has relinquished that right because of “surrender, abandonment, persisting neglect, unfitness or other like extraordinary circumstances.” Matter of Bennett v. Jeffreys, 40 NY2d 543, 544 (1976). The non-parent has the burden of proving that extraordinary circumstances exist, and until such circumstances are shown, the court does not reach the issue of the best interests of the child. Matter of Male Infant L., 61 NY2d 420 (1984).
If the court concludes that a grandparent seeking visitation or custody has demonstrated that one of these above described circumstances exists, thus demonstrating “standing”, the grandparents may proceed with their request for visitation or custody. Then, the court must consider whether allowing visitation rights or granting custody to the grandparents would be in the best interests of the child.
The grandparents have the burden of proving that visitation or custody would be in the child's best interests. There is no set standard for what is in a child’s best interest. Instead, each individual case involves an objective independent evaluation, considering factors such as, but not limited to the child's wishes and the child's prior relationship with the grandparents.