There are a variety of circumstances that may prompt a grandparent to petition the court for visitation rights, or even custody, of a minor grandchild. New York law recognizes the rights of grandparents to file such petitions so long as certain circumstances are met. Grandparents often petition for visitation for a grandchild that has been placed in foster care, but the grandparent may sometimes file even if the child is under parental care.
The standard for granting grandparent visitation under New York law is rather low compared to other states. A grandparent may file if at least one of the child's biological parents is deceased or there is a proper reason to intervene for the child's welfare. The precedent for this standard was set in a 2007 appellate decision. In making its determination, the court will examine a variety of factors. Paramount among those is the child's best interests. The past relationship between grandparent and child and the apparent abilities of the grandparent to provide proper care are also strong factors. The child's wishes may also be strongly considered, especially if the child is older.
While grandparent visitation rights may be granted through agreement with the parents, the 2007 case made it clear that visitation can happen regardless of such an accord. Even if the custodial parent actively disagrees with visitation, it can still be made possible through court order if the relationship is considered to be in the child's best interests.
Being granted a petition for visitation when a parent disagrees can be especially difficult. The grandparent must provide enough evidence in the petition to overrule the court's presumption that the parent's wishes are equal to the child's best interests. A family law attorney can often help a grandparent with the preparation of the petition and with any subsequent hearings.
Source: The New York Sun, 'Ruling Favors Grandparents Seeking Visitation," Joseph Goldstein, Nov. 14, 2014.