Normally, grandparents would expect to enjoy a healthy relationship with their sons or daughters and their grandchildren. Everyone looks forward to those joyous visits at Christmas or Thanksgiving, or it may be more frequently if the families are close by.
In some cases, the grandparents may even provide after school child care or day care or be awarded temporary custody if courts determine there is a need in which they assume the role of a relative caregiver.
It is undeniable that grandparents often form strong bonds with their grandchildren. That bond, however, can be tested when discord occurs in a marital or familial relationship. It can mean those visits may occur less frequently or even terminate if a custodial party leaves the area or if there are volatile emotions in play.
Aggrieved grandparents who have been cut off from contacts with their grandchildren can then turn to the courts. It is important that if you are contemplating petitioning the courts for grandparental visitation that you contact an experienced family law attorney such as Joe Roark of the Bryant Law Center to arrange a consultation of your case.
Kentucky has newly amended statutes (KRS 405.021) concerning Grandparental Visitation rights that took effect in mid-2018. The Kentucky Supreme Court also decided a case in 2012 that further defines grandparental visitation guidelines and could make it more difficult.
Kentucky now uses what is called the “modified best interest standard” and the news is not all good for grandparents. Trial courts are now instructed that “when considering a petition for grandparent visitation, the court must presume that a fit parent is making decisions that are in the child’s best interest.”
If the custodial parent determines contact with maternal or paternal grandparents is not welcome or could damage the child, then aggrieved parties may petition the courts.
However, the grandparent petitioning for visitation may rebut this presumption with clear and convincing evidence that visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interest. “In other words, the grandparent must show that the fit parent is clearly mistaken in the belief that grandparent visitation is not in the child’s best interest. If the grandparent fails to present such evidence to the court, then parental opposition alone is sufficient to deny the grandparent visitation,” says a 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court opinion in Walker v Blair.
Under current laws, the circuit or family court (where available) may grant reasonable visitation rights to either the paternal or maternal grandparents of a child and the court can issue any orders it deems necessary to enforce the decree. The determining factor for the court is that such orders and contacts are in the child’s best interest.
Even if a Kentucky court denied custody to a grandparent’s son or daughter, a grandparent may still have the opportunity to seek appropriate visitation rights.
Under current state law, once the court grants a grandparent visitation rights, those rights shall endure even if the grandparent’s son or daughter faces termination of parental rights, unless the court decides continued visitation is against the best interests of the child.
Does a grandparent have a clear legal right to visitation in Kentucky?
The Kentucky General Assembly has established a procedure for grandparents to petition for visitation.
What if my grandchildren are moved to a distant location?
Courts will typically defer to the judgment of the custodial parent who is presumed to be a fit parent. An agreement may be reached through informal discussions between the parties and their attorneys, if counsel is involved.