Grandparent Visitation Rights

Under Utah Code Ann. 30-5-2, grandparents have a right to petition the court for visitation with their grandchildren.  The petition may be made at any time.  Meaning, grandparents can voice their concerns during divorce and custody proceedings.  Although, a court will presume that a parent’s decision on whether a grandparent has visitation is in the grandchild’s best interest.

What a Grandparent Needs to Prove

The United States Supreme Court has held, “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interest recognized by the Court.”  Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000).  However, a court may override the parent’s decision if the court finds that the grandparent is a fit and proper person, visitation with the grandchild has been unreasonably denied, the parent is unfit, and visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild.  The classic case in which a grandparent is awarded visitation is when the grandchild is being abused or neglected.

Utah Supreme Court Decision in 2015

In September of 2015, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Utah Appellate Court denying grandparent’s visitation rights.  The Utah Appellate Court in Jones v. Jones held the petitioning grandparents had failed to prove visitation was in the best interest of the grandchild, especially over the wishes of the grandchild’s parent.   In this case, the child’s parents had separated and the father was living with the grandparents who helped care for the child.  Once the father moved out, the child continued to visit the grandparents two to three times a week until the father unexpectedly passed away.  After which, the mother denied the grandparents further visitation.

Grandparents filed suit under Utah Code Ann. 30-5-2, and the trial court held the grandparents had a substantial relationship with the child, and as a result of being denied visitation, the denial likely caused harm to the child.  The mother appealed and the Utah Appellate court overturned the decision granting the grandparent’s visitation.  The court’s decision was based on the premise that although both the mother and grandparents are fit, evidence of a substantial relationship between the child and grandparents is insufficient.

More on the Utah Supreme Court decision can be found here, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.  You can also read the official Court opinion here, provided by Fox 13 Utah.

I’m a Grandparent and Want Visitation

If you’re a grandparent and wish to seek visitation, know it’s an uphill battle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.   Here at Hepworth, Murray & Associates, we are children’s law firm.  If you feel it’s in your grandchild’s best interest that he or she has visitation with grandparents, please give us a call for a consultation.