Last year about this time, we wrote about the state of the law in Rhode Island regarding the rights of grandparents in trying to maintain relationships with their grandchildren. At the time, lawmakers were beginning hearings into whether to expand rights curtailed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 that gave the balance of control on such questions to the parents of the children. Since then, changes have been enacted – allowing family courts more leeway in granting grandparents reasonable access.
As is the case in every state, the law requires that the court make such determinations based on what is in the best interests of the child.
How it was
Under previous law, grandparents could petition the court for visitation rights under limited conditions. These included:
- If their adult child died
- If the adult child was getting a divorce
- If parental rights were denied to that adult child
- If an adult child had not asserted visitation rights for him- or herself
How it is
With the new law, applying the standard of best interests of the child, courts can grant visitation rights after finding:
- The petitioning grandparent is “a fit and proper person”
- That the petitioner can show a record of having tried and failed to see the grandchild in the previous 30 days of filing with the court
- That visitation won’t be possible without court intervention
- Clear and convincing evidence that parents had unreasonably restricted visitation with the child
Experienced attorneys understand that child custody and visitation issues are among the most delicate that any family faces. Every case is different and deserves to be handled with the sensitivity necessary to address each one’s unique demands.