Divorce or any other circumstance that causes a disruption in custody and availability of a child to see their grandparents is devastating. When situations like divorce, death, separation, estrangement and/or abandonment happen, often times it’s grandparents that stand to lose the most. If your grandchild’s parents are making it difficult for you to visit, there are situations where you can sue for visitation rights. However, in Tennessee the laws on this issue are complicated.
First you will have to prove grandparent standing. Tennessee law states that grandparents must have standing under the following circumstances:
- One of the child’s parents have died
- Child’s parents are divorced, separated or were never married
- One of the child’s parents have gone missing for at least 6 months
- The child resided with the grandparent for a minimum of six months prior to a parent removing the child from their home. If grandparents asked the parent to take the child or asked the parent to leave resulting in the child leaving, that’s different.
A child does not have to have lived with the grandparent to have legal standing in the state of Tennessee — if grandparent can prove a substantial existing relationship for at least one year, and then the parent chose not to allow the child to have access to the grandparent for reasons other than abuse or endangerment. That loss of contact could cause the grandchild significant emotional damage — especially if the grandparent was the primary caregiver for the child for a significant amount of time. On the contrary, if the grandchild had little to no contact with grandparent and had not established a significant relationship with the grandparent, visitation rights are much harder to gain in the state of Tennessee.
If your situation can meet any of these above standards the next step would be petitioning the court. Our family law attorneys would walk you through what the process looks like and petition the court on your behalf.
As in all family court cases involving children, the court will look at the child’s best interest, keeping in mind that older children will be given a chance to speak their preference in such a decision. Other factors that are considered in the child’s best interest are parental unfitness, if a grandparent is the parent of a deceased parent and the good faith of the grandparent.
In the end, grandparent’s rights in Tennessee are complicated. If you are curious about your rights and want to discuss your potential case to sue for visitation rights, give us a call. Our family law attorneys are experienced in grandparents right’s laws in Tennessee and have the history with the courts to help you better understand where your claim stands and how we can help you achieve your goal.