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What Are the Visitation Rights of Grandparents in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2022 | Family Law

As a grandparent, you very quickly develop a close relationship with your grandchildren. Unfortunately, major life events can interfere with these relationships—not necessarily between grandparent and grandchild, but between grandparents and their grandchildren’s parents.

While grandparents’ rights in Tennessee are much more limited than parents’ rights, grandparents have options to protect their relationship with their grandchildren. And if the parent or parents of a grandchild are refusing a grandparent access to a child, grandparents can seek court-ordered visitation under certain circumstances.

At the law firm of Batson Nolan PLC, we have a long history of coming up with effective solutions to some of our clients’ most challenging legal issues. We routinely help grandparents who have been deprived of visitation with their grandchildren obtain a court order allowing regular visitation. With our help, you can rest assured knowing that you’ve done everything possible to maintain a loving and healthy relationship with your grandchildren.

Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

As a general rule, a child’s parents have the right to make important life decisions on their child’s behalf. Thus, if parents do not want their children to associate with another person—whether it be a school friend, distant relative, or even a grandparent—the parents usually prevail. Of course, not all of these parties have a legal interest in maintaining a relationship with a child. Grandparents, however, have some rights when it comes to maintaining a relationship with a grandchild. And when a parent’s decision is not in the child’s best interest, in certain situations, a court can intervene and award grandparents legal visitation rights.

If the family unit is intact, a court will not intervene unless the child’s parents are somehow unfit. However, proving that a parent is unfit is a high burden that doesn’t have anything to do with the wisdom of their choice to prohibit visitation.

In most cases, it is best for grandparents to attempt to work out their differences with the parents and arrange time with their grandchildren out of court. However, when that is impossible, grandparents have legal options to seek visitation if certain criteria are met.

When Can Grandparents Obtain Visitation Rights in Tennessee?

In most cases, those wondering about the legal visitation rights of grandparents have been denied access to their grandchildren by the children’s parents. In these situations, the grandparent must first establish that the court has the legal authority to even hear the case. Under Tennessee law, a court will only intervene if one of the following facts are present:

  • One of the grandchild’s parents is no longer living;
  • One of the grandchild’s parents has been missing for at least six months;
  • The grandchild’s parents were never married or are no longer married;
  • The grandparent obtained a valid visitation order from another state;
  • The child lived with the grandparent for at least 12 months before being removed from their home; or
  • For the 12 months leading up to the request for visitation, the grandparent and grandchild had a “significant existing relationship.”

While each of these situations opens the door to grandparent visitation, none will result in an automatic visitation order. This is because grandparents must prove that denying their request for visitation would result in “harm” to the child. Importantly, courts view these cases through the lens of what’s best for the children, not the grandparents.

How Do Grandparents Prove Harm?

Depending on the situation, proving that a child would be harmed by severing the grandparent-grandchild relationship can be challenging. When making this determination, courts will consider the following:

  • The child and grandparent had a significant relationship, and ending that relationship would result in the child suffering severe emotional harm;
  • The grandparent was the child’s primary caregiver, and ending that relationship may prevent the child’s needs from being met; or
  • The child would be in danger or risk of substantial harm if the relationship with their grandparent ended.

Grandparents seeking visitation with their grandchildren should first develop a plan for when they want to see their grandchildren and under what circumstances. This is because one of the primary concerns of Tennessee family law judges is that any grandparent visitation should not interfere with the child’s relationship with their parents. Additionally, taking the time to develop a plan indicates to the court that the grandparent put significant thought into their request and that it wasn’t a way to “get back at” a parent.

Those who are interested in obtaining visitation rights with a grandchild should reach out to a dedicated Tennessee grandparent visitation lawyer. These cases are very fact-dependent, and an attorney can provide an honest assessment of a grandparent’s likelihood of success.

Call Batson Nolan PLC, to Schedule a Free Consultation to Discuss Grandparent Visitation Rights

If you want to learn more about grandparents’ rights in Tennessee, reach out to Batson Nolan PLC for immediate assistance. At Batson Nolan PLC, we have helped clients effectively navigate the legal issues confronting them since 1860. Over this time, we developed an effective approach to handling even the most challenging cases. This includes many cases involving grandparents’ visitation rights. Our staff of experienced family legal issues attorneys and knowledgeable legal professionals takes pride in helping each of our clients resolve the issues they face in an efficient and effective manner. To schedule a free consultation with our Tennessee family law legal team, give Batson Nolan PLC a call. You can also reach our lawyers through our online contact form.