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Do Grandparents Get Holiday Visitation Rights?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

The holidays are a time for family, so does that mean grandparents also get holiday visitation to see their grandchildren this time of year?

It seems like a simple question but unfortunately it doesn't have a simple answer. Unlike parents, there is generally no presumed right to custody for grandparents. It's not a federal issue either; each state has its own rules about how visitation with grandparents will work.

If you're a grandparent who already has a visitation agreement for your grandchildren, that's a good place to start. Otherwise it's best to start at the beginning.

Most states have some statutory guidelines for granting visitation to grandparents, and those fall into two categories: restrictive and permissive.

Restrictive states only allow grandparents to seek visitation when the child's parents are divorced, or when one or both is dead. But more states follow a permissive model so that a third party can seek visitation even if both parents are still alive and married to each other.

If you're not sure what kind of rules your state has, ask an attorney for advice on how to get holiday visitation with your grandchildren. But act fast, as the process can take a little while.

Before you head to court to fight for time with your grandchildren, there are some non-adversarial options to reach a deal. Mediation and other collaborative dispute resolution techniques can help you reach a resolution with your grandchildren's parents, and hopefully mend your relationship with them a little too. If that doesn't work, you can always go back to Plan B: Convince the judge.

When considering visitation with any adult, judges generally consider what is in the child's best interests. That's a complex calculation, but it does include emotional and physical health and welfare, the length and strength of the relationship between grandparent and child, and the wishes of the child if the child can make those decisions.

Both negatives and positives are taken into account. Any problems in your relationship with your grandchild could count against you, so keep that in mind.

If you want more time with your grandchildren, educate yourself about how to improve your chances before a court. Then hopefully you'll get some quality time with those adorable faces this holiday season.

Do you have more questions about holiday visitation rights? Ask our community of online legal contributors at the FindLaw Answers Child Custody & Support Forum to get some opinions about what to expect.

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