Do Alabama Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?
Diverse family structures can be as rewarding as they are complex. Grandparents can play an integral role in the emotional development and well-being of children, even when the children have an otherwise stable and healthy family structure. However, sometimes one or both parents decide to prohibit grandparents from accessing their grandchildren, or a change in the structure of their nuclear family (such as a death of one parent or a divorce) can alter an already established visitation schedule and leave grandparents out in the cold. This can be emotionally devastating for grandparents and have a detrimental impact on the grandchildren. The stress caused by this kind of situation is even higher when the grandparents have genuine concern about the wellbeing of their grandchildren, and worry that the barriers erected are a means for an abusive parent to cover their tracks or further isolate their children and family from helpful resources and loved ones. Regardless of the specific circumstances, it is not uncommon for our office to receive calls from grandparents asking what their rights to visitation are.
Grandparent Visitation Rights
Unfortunately, grandparents are not inherently entitled to visitation rights in Alabama. However, that does not mean you are out of options. Alabama courts defer to parents to make the choice that is in the best interest of their children. If a parent has decided to isolate a child from contact with their grandparents, the court presumes this decision was made in the best interest of the child. Luckily, this presumption is rebuttable. In other words, while courts may assume that the choice the parents made was in the best interest of the child, you will have the opportunity to prove them wrong by demonstrating that the parents are not acting in their child’s best interest. Additionally, there are grounds on which you can petition the court for visitation rights as a grandparent.
Grounds to File a Petition for Visitation Rights
There are a number of grounds which give you standing to petition the court for visitation rights with your grandchild which are outlined below:
- One or both of the child’s parents have died;
- The child’s parents have divorced;
- The child has been abandoned by one or both parents;
- The child was not born in wedlock; and
- One or both of the child’s parents (whom the child resides with, and who can be either biological or adoptive parents) have prohibited the child and grandparent from having a relationship.
It’s important to note that Alabama courts will not intervene to make a determination on visitation if the child’s parents are married unless the parents have previously denied visitation attempts by the grandparents. When making a decision based on these grounds the court will focus on what is in the best interest of the child, and will consider things like the physical and mental health of the child, any domestic violence that has occurred between the child’s parents or toward the child, the preference of the child (if they are old enough to have an independent opinion), and the grandparents’ willingness to encourage or support a relationship between the child and their parents.
Talk to a Birmingham, Alabama Family Law Lawyer
If you are a grandparent struggling to get visitation and are concerned about your grandchild’s wellbeing, contact the experienced Birmingham family lawyers at Peeples Law to find out what your options are and how we can best support you in reuniting. Contact Peeples Law today to schedule a consultation.