Parental rights proceedings, whether resulting from a divorce or an unwed parenting dispute, can affect the grandparents’ ability to visit with their grandchildren. In some cases, grandparents who once enjoyed frequent and positive contact with their grandchildren are deprived of it. In other situations, ongoing contact between the grandparents and the children is not in the children’s best interests and should be limited.
In New Hampshire, grandparents may petition the court for reasonable visitation rights of their minor grandchildren provided that there is an absence of a nuclear family. The section of the Parental Rights and Responsibilities statute, titled “Grandparent’s Visitation Rights,” lists eight factors the court must consider when it determines whether or not grandparent visitation rights would be appropriate. The factors that carry the most weight are whether the visitation would be in the best interests of the children and whether the visitation would interfere with either parent’s relationship with or authority over his or her children. Some other factors include the nature of the relationship between the grandparent and the children, the nature of the relationship between the grandparents and the parent, and the preferences of the children. In these cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate whether grandparent visitation would be in the best interest of the child.
Petitions for grandparent visitation are heard by the Family Division courts and they are typically filed during an on-going parental rights proceeding, however, a grandparent can file a petition at any time. If the court determines that grandparent visitation rights should be granted, it will grant reasonable visitation rights that do not infringe on the parent’s ability to raise his or her children.
Grandparents have often played a very influential role in the lives of their grandchildren, either by providing supplemental care while the parents are working or at times being the primary caregiver because neither parent is available to care for the children. When a family is disrupted due to a divorce proceeding or parental rights dispute, the ability of a grandparent to continue to be involved with their grandchildren can be greatly impacted.
The State of New Hampshire has recognized the importance of a grandparents’ role in minor children’s lives by allowing them to seek their own “visitation” when they would otherwise not be able to see the children due to restrictive parental rights and responsibilities orders or the unavailable of one of the parents.
My firm is very aware of the role that grandparents play in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives and are prepared to assist you in protecting your ability to continue to have a positive and consistent relationship with your grandchildren. Please contact us for your initial telephone consultation which is free of charge to determine your rights under the current laws of the State of New Hampshire.