Grandparent visitation in Massachusetts is governed by G.L. c. 119 §39D, which provides in relevant part that grandparents of an unmarried minor child may petition a court for reasonable visitation rights, “upon a written finding that such visitation rights would be in the best interest of said minor child.” Case law that has interpreted this statute describes that the focus of these cases must be the child and protecting the child from harm that may result from the severing of a significant relationship with the grandparent. A petitioner who requests grandparent visitation has the burden of demonstrating not just that the grandparent and his or her grandchild maintained a significant relationship and that visits with his or her grandchild are a good idea, or that they are not harmful, rather, he or she must demonstrate that the failure of permitting grandparent visitation would cause the child significant harm by adversely affecting his or her health, safety, and welfare. Blixt v. Blixt, 437 Mass. 649 (2002).
Courts have interpreted this as a two-part standard and proving “significance” of the relationship alone is the only first among two parts of the standard. Even a relationship that is “meaningful and nurturing” alone will not meet the standard; even a relationship where grandparent and grandchild saw each other regularly is not necessarily “the kind of relationship from which a significant harm… maybe inferred from disruption alone.” Dearborn v. Deausault, 61 Mass.App.Ct. 234 (2004).
In other words, the court must look at the best interests of the child and then go one step further and consider whether the LACK of a relationship with the grandparent will actually cause harm to the child. The courts do not want to step on the rights of a fit parent to make the decision as to whether or not their children should have time with a grandparent, but they will intervene if the case requires it.
Contact our Experienced Plymouth County Family Lawyers at Mason & Nasios
If you are seeking legal assistance regarding grandparent visitation in the Plymouth County, our family lawyers at Mason & Nasios can help. We assist grandparents all around Brockton and Southeastern Massachusetts understand their rights. Our experienced family lawyers help clients through all child-related disputes, including child custody, child support, parenting plans, adoption, guardianship and more. Contact us today to see how we can help.