Grandparent Visitation Rights in Michigan

In Michigan, when grandparents are denied access to their
grandchild they can petition the court for grandparent visitation rights.  The process can be an uphill battle because
there are restrictions on their ability to do so successfully.  The biggest obstacle to grandparents
petitioning for visitation rights is that parents have a Constitutionally
protected fundamental right to raise their children without outside
interference.  This includes deciding who
can spend time with their children.
Additionally, grandparents can only petition for visitation under
limited circumstances.  According
to current law, grandparents are able to petition the court to order visitation
only if there is an absence of the nuclear family.  That is to say that the child’s mother and
father are no longer married, are separated, have had their marriage annulled, one
of the parents is deceased, or if the parents were never married.  
The grandparents must prove that denying them visitation
would result in “a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental,
physical, or emotional health.”  The
harm standard is a notoriously difficult standard to meet.  A grandparent must demonstrate that
allowing visitation is in the best interests of the child.  The court takes into consideration the impact
that visitation will have on the parent/child relationship, and also delve into
the previous nature of the grandparent/child relationship. 

A grandparent has a higher likelihood of success if he/she
previously had custody and care of the child. 
If the grandparent lived with the child, this can work strongly in favor
of the court ordering visitation for the grandparent.  This may provide that an “established
custodial environment” exists between the child and grandparent.  An “established custodial environment”
is established if:  over an appreciable
time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for
guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort.”  In other words, this establishes that grandparents
have taken on a parental role and increases the likelihood for visitation.
If the court rules that grandparenting will be granted, the visitations
cannot interfere with the parent-child relationship.  Additionally, if ordering visitation is
likely to increase friction between the parent and grandparents or to cause
problems between parent and child, the court may determine that ordering
visitation is not in the best interests of the child.
A grandparent is not able to force visitation when the
child’s nuclear family is intact. 
Furthermore, if two fit parents sign an affidavit stating that they both
oppose an order for grandparenting time, the court will immediately dismiss a
complaint or motion.

So, what should a grandparent do?  A grandparent can try and negotiate an
informal agreement by reaching out to the parent directly.  If this fails and access to the child is
denied, the only alternative option is to consult with an attorney who can give
specific legal advice pertinent to their particular situation.
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