When it comes to grandparents’ rights, Massachusetts laws can be tricky to navigate. However, grandparents do have financial, visitation, and custody rights under certain circumstances. To utilize such rights, legal assistance might be necessary to help you take action.
Grandparents today are frequently faced with decisions about what is best for their grandchildren under challenging situations. Whether seeking visitation or custody, grandparents can take legal recourse when it is in the best interest of the child/children.
Grandparents who are denied visitation with their grandchildren have a legal right to petition the court. However, grandparents are required to prove that such visitation is in the child/children’s best interests.
Under Massachusetts law, grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation if the parents are divorced, living apart with a court-ordered separation, or are deceased. Additionally, if the parents never married, are living apart, and there is a court judgment acknowledging parentage, grandparents can file for visitation rights. Maternal grandparents can also request visitation if the parents were never married, and the father is not recognized as a legal parent.
Visitation may be granted if the grandparents can show it is in the child/children’s best interest, have a prior relationship with the child/children, and denying visitation may be harmful to the child/children’s health, safety, or welfare.
When petitioning the Probate and Family Court for visitation, grandparents are instructed to include a written affidavit. This statement is used to outline the grandparent-grandchild relationship and describe why contact has been changed. The affidavit is also where grandparents can convey to the court how a child’s health, safety, or welfare may be at risk if visitation is not granted.
Any grandparent who feels the safety and well-being of their grandchildren is at risk has the right to petition for custody. Depending on the status of the parents, there are two different routes for filing a custody request.
Temporary guardianship or permanent custody may be requested through the Probate and Family Court when custody is necessary for a child’s safety. In the event children are orphaned due to the death of their biological parents, the Department of Children and Families steps in to arrange care. Grandparents can present their case to argue they are suitable guardians.
For grandparents on strict budgets, financial programs offer relief when acting as surrogate parents for their grandchildren. Some options include:
- food assistance through Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for children age five and under.
- grantee relative benefits at the Department of Transitional Assistance.
- survivor benefits from Social Security if one or both of the parents are deceased.
- MassHealth insurance, which also assists in childcare.
If you are struggling with visitation or custody rights as a grandparent, you need a knowledgeable family law attorney to exercise your rights and help you navigate tricky Massachusetts laws. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.