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Tennessee Grandparent Visitation Rights

Grandparents in many families spend plenty of time with their grandchildren and even contribute to raising them. But when a grandchild’s parents either divorce or separate, grandparents may end up spending less time with their grandkids. 

In Tennessee, grandparents may obtain visitation with a grandchild. However, a custodial parent’s decision outweighs a grandparent’s visitation rights. 

According to a federal case (Troxel v. Granville), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a judge must consider a parent’s reasons for opposing grandparent visitation. Furthermore, grandparent visits should not interfere with the relationship between the parent and the child. Thus, grandparents’ rights should not negatively impact a parent’s rights. 

For the court to consider the grandparents’ visitation request, one or more of the following circumstances must be true: 

  • The child’s parents are divorced, separated, or were never legally married 

  • A child’s parent died 

  • A child’s parent has been missing for at least six months 

  • The grandparent has a visitation order from another state 

  • The child was removed from the grandparent’s home by the parent(s) after living there for at least 12 months 

  • The grandparent and the child have maintained a significant bond for at least 12 months and terminating a significant existing relationship would cause substantial harm to the child 

If the court grants the grandparents a hearing, a judge must determine if restricting or stopping grandparent visitation would result in “substantial” harm to the child. Substantial means a real danger or hazard, rather than showing that a child will miss their relationship with his/her grandparents. 

A grandparent must show one of the following circumstances to prove actual harm: 

  • There is a significant relationship between the grandparent and the child that the latter will suffer severe emotional harm if the relationship ends 

  • The grandparent was the child’s primary caregiver for at least six (6) months and ending this relationship would cause emotional harm to the child 

  • The child will be in danger or risk of substantial harm if the child loses his/her relationship with his/her grandparent 

If the court finds that a danger of substantial harm to the child is present, then a judge will then determine if grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests. Common factors include the length and quality of the child-grandparent relationship, the emotional ties between grandparent and child, if visitation would interfere with the parent-child relationship, if the grandparent and parent can work together, and if the parent is unfit. 

Again, a parent’s objection is given significant weight in these proceedings. So, unless grandparents can prove substantial harm, then the court will most likely deny grandparent visitation upon the parent’s request. 

If you are interested in seeking grandparent visitation in Jackson or Clarksville, contact Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC today to learn about your legal options. Get a legal team with more than three decades of combined legal experience on your side! 

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