Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grandparenting Rights

Michigan law recognizes that a relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild provides the child with intangible benefits not available in other relationships. Thus, in certain circumstances, grandparents do have rights.

On January 3, 2005, the Grandparenting Time Bill was signed into law, creating new “rights” for grandparents following the Michigan Supreme Court Decision in Derose v Derose, 469 Mich 320; 666 NW2d 636 (2003), which held Michigan’s former grandparent visitation law to be unconstitutional. In Derose, the Michigan Supreme Court asked the Legislature to redraft the Michigan law in order to make it constitutional, allowing grandparents and grandchildren access to one another in limited circumstances. In response, MCL 722.27b was enacted. The law more staunchly protects parental rights as required by the Constitution and Michigan Supreme Court.
Under the law, grandparents may request to see their grandchildren if they have been denied access by the parent in any of the following circumstances:

(a) An action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment involving the child’s parents is pending before the court;
(b) The child’s parents are divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance, or have had their marriage annulled;
(c) The child’s parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased;
(d) The child’s parents have never been married, they are not residing in the same household, and paternity has been established;
(e) 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 a parent; or
(f) In the year preceding the commencement of the 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.

The statute, however, creates a presumption that a fit parent’s decision to deny grandparenting time does not create a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health. MCL 722.27b(b)(4)(b). To rebut the presumption, a grandparent must prove that the parent’s decision to deny grandparenting time creates a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health. If the grandparent does not overcome the presumption, the court will dismiss the action.

Even if the court finds that a grandparent has met the standard for rebutting the presumption, the court must consider whether it is in the best interests of the child to enter an order for grandparenting time. MCL 722.27b(6).

If you are interested in learning more about grandparent rights, divorce, or family law, please call Melissa Cox at 248-380-0000 ext. 240 or email her at

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