Courts grant visitation or custody to grandparents only when certain conditions provided in state statutes are met. Conditions for a grandparent to attain custody differ from those conditions required for visitation rights. A grandparent should be familiar with the conditions for either custody or visitation before determining whether to file a petition to request either from a court of law.

Best Interests of the Child

Courts in every jurisdiction must consider the "best interest of the child" when granting custody or visitation rights to a grandparent. In some states, the relevant statute provides a list of factors the court should considered when determining a child’s best interests. Other states do not provide factors in the statute, but courts in those states typically identify factors in custody and visitation cases interpreting the state statutes.

The following factors in determining the best interest of the child are among those included in state statutes and case law:

  • The needs of the child, including considerations of physical and emotional health of the child, the safety of the child, and the welfare of the child
  • The capability of the parents and/or grandparents to meet the needs of the child
  • The wishes of the parent(s) and the grandparent(s)
  • The wishes of the child, if the child is capable of making decisions for himself or herself
  • The strength of the relationship between the grandparent(s) and grandchild
  • The length of the relationship between the grandparent(s) and grandchild
  • Evidence of abuse or neglect by the parent(s) or grandparent(s)
  • Evidence of substance abuse by the parent(s) or grandparent(s)
  • The child’s adjustment to the home, school, or community
  • The ability of the parent(s) or grandparent(s) to provide love, affection, and contact with the child
  • The distance between the child and the parent(s) or grandparent(s)

SOURCE: FindLaw