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Does Massachusetts recognize grandparents' rights to visitation?

Massachusetts recognizes that maintaining the relationship between children and their grandparents is appropriate when it is in the best interests of the children to do so. Grandparents’ rights to visitation are not, however, without limitations and restrictions.

When the parents of a child are living together the decision to grant visitation to grandparents is left up to the parents. As a general rule, courts will only entertain requests for visitation by grandparents in situations in which a child’s parents are divorced, married but living apart, unmarried and living apart, or deceased.

If a child is born out of wedlock, and there has been no court ruling or acknowledgment of paternity, and the parents are not living together, only the maternal grandparents may ask a court for visitation rights. The status of the father of the child must be legally established before the fraternal grandparents may request reasonable visitation.

Grandparents’ rights can involve complex family legal issues. For instance, courts will not entertain a petition for visitation after the adoption of a child by someone other than a stepparent. Even if a Worcester County court has issued an order allowing visitation, the adoption would terminate rights of the grandparents.

The overriding consideration guiding a judge in making decisions about visitation between a grandparent and a child is the best interest of the child. Grandparents whose petition for visitation satisfies all of the procedural requirements of the law may not be granted visitation rights if a judge is not convinced that doing so is in the child’s best interest.

A Worcester attorney familiar with family law issues and skilled in handling family law litigation may be of assistance in resolving grandparents’ rights disputes. This post is merely an overview of the topic, but it is not offered as a substitute for legal advice that only an attorney is qualified to offer.

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