Do Grandparents Get Holiday Visitation Rights in Connecticut?
Westport Family Law Attorney
With the holiday season in full force, we all have a lot of things on our mind: hosting parties, cooking, gift shopping, work stress, and planning family gatherings. Most of us probably take for granted the simplicity of the holidays—we may have a schedule we have followed for years that determines which holidays we spend with whom.
More and more families are now falling outside the norm of the “conventional” family, however, and now must juggle custody schedules, including weekend and holiday visitation schedules. With biological parents, adoptive parents, siblings, and grandparents all wanting to spend time with the young children in the family, these custody arrangements can be very complicated during the holiday season in particular.
Connecticut Grandparent Visitation Law
Best Interest of the Child
Connecticut law has seemingly clear guidelines requiring child custody and visitation to be determined by whatever is in the best interest of the child. However, determining what exactly the best interest of the child is in every family is unique and dependent on the circumstances. The objective of Connecticut family visitation laws is to ensure that the child’s best interests are served while keeping amicable relationships among all interested parties. Grandparents’ visitation rights have been particularly in the spotlight since a United States Supreme Court decision in 2000, Troxel v. Granville, which essentially prioritized the parents’ rights ahead of the biological grandparents’ rights. In many jurisdictions, this means that parents may be able to prevent grandparents from visiting with their grandchildren. Fortunately for grandparents residing in Connecticut, our state values the grandparent-grandchild relationship and provides more opportunities for grandparents to be able to enjoy their grandchildren’s youth.
Considerations During Divorce
During a divorce, the first thing couples should consider is the effect the separation will have on their children. Perhaps every Sunday the two children stayed with grandma and grandpa while the couple was together. If the couple decides to separate, this Sunday routine may be disrupted and the grandparents will probably be missing the time with their grandchildren, and vice versa. Most of the time, age aside, children do not get a say in who has “legal custody” of them, or who they are allowed to visit with. One of the main effects of the Troxel case was that parents were given superior rights to other parties, such as grandparents, and can, in most cases, keep grandparents entirely out of the picture if they so desire. This is often an issue if one spouse dies or after a legal separation in which one parent is given sole custody and the parents of the other spouse wish to visit with the child.
This is not the case in Connecticut. Connecticut boasts a law friendly to grandparent visitation, valuing the grandparent-grandchild relationship. According to Chapter 815(j), Section 46b-59 of the Connecticut General Statutes, the courts may consider a host of factors in determining if any third party, including grandparents, can have legal visitation rights with a minor child. Grandparents specifically may have rights if a “parent-like relationship” exists between the grandparent and the minor child or if there is “history of regular contact and proof of a close and substantial relationship.” In order to determine the extent of the relationship between the grandparent a child, the court may consider:
- The length of time since the grandparent has seen the grandchild;
- The nature of the activities between the grandparent and the grandchild previously;
- The relationship between the grandparent and the custodial parent(s);
- The parent’s role in the child’s life;
- The fitness of the grandparent seeking visitation;
- The fitness of the custodial parent for parentage; and
- The significant absence of a parent from the minor child’s life.
Keeping Relationships Civil Around the Holidays
The tell-all determinations of whether a grandparent or any third party will be granted visitation rights is the best interest of the child and the type of relationship pre-existing between the grandparent and grandchild. In order to improve your chances of being able to maintain a relationship with your grandchildren, especially around the holidays, consider the following:
- Visit with your grandchildren as often as possible;
- Keep a log or diary, documenting the time you spent with your grandchildren and the activities you participated in;
- Be vocal about your desire to be a part of your grandchildren’s lives to your child and your child’s spouse or ex-spouse;
- Make reasonable compromises and understand that regardless of the relationship you have, parents rights are still generally deemed superior to third party rights; and
- Consider what the children want. This may include visiting as a whole family instead of individually.
As a grandparent in Connecticut, you fortunately have more rights than grandparents in most other states. These tips may help you demonstrate your desire to spend time with your grandchild and therefore improve your chances of being able to maintain a relationship with them.
Contact a Westport Family Law Attorney Today
If you or anyone you know is having a difficulty keeping relationships amicable during the holidays or at any time, you may wish to reconsider your custody arrangements. At Richard H. Raphael, Attorney at Law, I am experienced in all family law and custody matters, and I understand how taxing it can be to balance the personal challenges of going through a divorce with preserving your family relationships and keeping the best interests of your child(ren) in mind. Contact a Westport family law attorney at my office today so you can spend more time with your family this holiday season and less time being stressed out about it.