An interesting and fairly recent area of family law is the issue of grandparenting time in Michigan. Do grandparents have a fundamental right to see their grandchildren? The law says No. However, in some circumstances, the Court can decide that it is still in the child’s best interest to have grandparenting time. This can be a tricky issue, but it is certainly doable. Looking a little deeper, the law basically says that it will not interfere with a fit parents decision UNLESS the grandparent can show that it would cause physical, mental or emotional harm to the child. A grandparent can ask for grandparenting time if one of the following circumstances apply:
MCL 722.27b: “A grandparent may seek grandparenting time if:
- An action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment involving the child’s parents is pending before the court.
- The child’s parents are divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance, or have had their marriage annulled.
- The child’s parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased.
- The parents have never been married, they do not reside in the same household, and paternity was never established.
- Legal custody of the child has been given to a person other than the child’s parent or the child is placed outside of and does not reside in the home of the parent.
- In the year preceding the commencement of an action for grandparenting time, the grandparent provided an established custodial environment for the child, whether or not the grandparent had custody under a court order”
Even if the Court does decide that the grandparent has overcome their initial burden, the Court must then analyze the ten following factors:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the grandparent and the child.
- The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent, the role performed by the grandparent, and the existing emotional ties of the child to the grandparent.
- The grandparent’s moral fitness.
- The grandparent’s mental and physical health.
- The child’s reasonable preference, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
- The effect on the child of the hostility between the grandparent and the parent of the child.
- The willingness of the grandparent, except in the case of abuse or neglect, to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent or parents of the child.
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by any child of the grandparent.
- Whether the parent’s decision to deny or lack of an off of, grandparenting time is related to the child’s well-being or is for some other unrelated reason.
- Any other factor relevant to the physical and psychological well-being of the child.
The Court then must make a decision that is in the child's best interest. The Court is required to state its analysis on the record of why they are, or are not, awarding grand-parenting time. As you can see this is a complicated situation. The Court may order mediation if they feel the grandparent has met their first burden. The Court must order an evidentiary hearing (which is a trial) on what is in the child's best interest if an agreement cannot be made.
If you are a parent who does not feel that grandparenting time is appropriate or a grandparent who has been denied the opportunity to see their grandchild, please call us at (313)945-9050 so that we can help you determine your and your child’s rights regarding grandparenting time in Michigan.