Divorce in Massachusetts centers on the divorcing couple and any children they may have. One group that routinely receives virtually no attention in the divorce process is grandparents. Most people might think that grandparents have only an ancillary interest in visitation with minor children after a divorce has been finalized. In many situations, however, the grandparents may be the child’s best hope for a stable environment and adequate financial support.
Massachusetts law is fairly restrictive in specifying visitation rights for grandparents. Grandparents who desire regularly scheduled visitation with their unmarried minor grandchildren must petition the court that granted the divorce for visitation rights. If the divorce was finalized in another state, the petition must be filed in the county where the child currently resides. The right to file such a petition is conditioned upon the existence of one of the following circumstances: the child’s parents are divorced or are living apart, either or both of the child’s parents are deceased or the child was born out of wedlock and its paternity was adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction. The acknowledgement or finding of paternity is not required in cases where the petition for visitation is filed by the child’s maternal grandparents. The granting of a petition depends upon the court’s finding that such visitation rights would serve the best interests of the minor child.
Grandparent visitation of a child who has been placed in foster care is treated differently. A grandparent of such a child is presumptively allowed reasonable visitation pursuant to a schedule prepared by Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
The assistance of an experienced family law attorney may help grandparents overcome the several bureaucratic hurdles required to establish formal visitation rights.