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Does a great-grandmother qualify for grandparent visitation?

Under some circumstances, a grandparent may receive visitation rights with their grandchildren, although those rights have been modified greatly in recent years.
 
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    January 30, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Does a great-grandmother qualify for grandparent visitation?

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Under some circumstances, a grandparent may receive visitation rights with their grandchildren, although those rights have been modified greatly in recent years.

However, even in such a circumstance, the question may arise as to who, exactly, is considered to be a "grandparent" under the law. For example, does a great-grandparent qualify under Colorado law? The recent Colorado Court of Appeals case of In re M.D.E. provides an answer.

Great-grandmother seeks visitation

After a dispute between the mother and father of a child, the child's mother filed a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities. Several months later, the court entered permanent orders and a parenting plan resolving the dispute between the father and the mother. The orders and parenting plan did not mention the child's great-grandmother.

More than six months later, the child's great-grandmother filed a motion to intervene in the proceeding and a motion for grandparent visitation under Colorado law. In both motions, the great-grandmother alleged that she was the child's great-grandmother, "the grandmother of the child's mother." She asserted that because the statute provided a means for grandparents to seek visitation of grandchildren, by logical extension, great-grandparents should also be allowed to seek visitation.

The magistrate to whom the case had been assigned granted the great-grandmother's motion to intervene, stating that the law should be liberally construed to serve the child's best interests. The district court upheld the magistrate's ruling and the father appealed.

The definition of a grandparent

The Colorado Court of Appeals stated that whether the great-grandmother had a right to intervene to seek visitation of the child depended entirely on whether she was a "grandparent" within the meaning of the applicable Colorado statute.

The Colorado General Assembly had, indeed, defined the term "grandparent" for purposes of this law, and that definition was clear and unambiguous. As most relevant here, the language of the law limited the meaning of grandparent to "a person who is the parent of a child's father or mother." Thus, the statute's language plainly excluded great-grandparents, who are not parents of a child's father or mother, but, instead, are grandparents of a child's father or mother.

A visitation statute impinges on a parents' fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. Thus, for the General Assembly to have limited the statute's application to relatives who, generally speaking, are likely to have the next closest relationship with a child, was entirely rational. Further, a child can typically have only four grandparents, but could have eight great-grandparents. By limiting the definition, the General Assembly rationally reduced the numbers of persons who could seek to interfere with the parents' fundamental right in family law proceedings.

Accordingly, the court concluded that the great-grandmother was not a grandparent within the meaning of Colorado statute, and therefore did not have standing to seek visitation rights.

Seeking advice on grandparent visitation

The severing of ties between grandparents and grandchildren can be a heartbreaking consequence of a divorce. If you are a grandparent who wishes to pursue visitation, seek experienced family law attorneys who have the in-depth knowledge of applicable case law and statutes to advise you based on the facts of your case. It may even be possible to negotiate reasonable visitation times without resorting to the courts.



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