What rights do grandparents hold when it comes to visitation with their grandchildren?
Colorado Courts recognize the fundamental right of fit parents to make decisions regarding the care, custody and control of their children. What does this mean for grandparents?
There is no automatic right to grandparent visitation in Colorado, however, Colorado Revised Statutes §19-1-117 grants grandparents the ability to petition a Colorado family law court for reasonable grandchild visitation rights in the following instances:
- The marriage of the child’s parents is annulled, the parents are divorced, or the parents are legally separated;
- The child is placed in the legal custody of someone other than a parent, excluding a child who was placed for adoption or whose adoption was legally finalized, with the exception of step-parent adoptions; or
- The child’s parent, who is the child of the grandparent is deceased.
If one of the above situations exists and a Colorado family law court found that it is in the best interests of the child the court can grant grandparent visitation. Once granted, Colorado grandparent visitation is treated similar to any parental visitation, it may be modified or terminated if the court finds that such action is in the best interest of the child involved. In determining what is in the best interests of the child, the court considers several factors such as whether the requested visitation is for the child’s benefit, the prior interactions and interrelationship of the child with the grandparents, the child’s wishes, and whether the grandparent’s child is able to exercise parenting time.
Grandparents who are granted visitation rights maintain recourses in family law courts if these visitation rights are not honored. However, Colorado family law courts continually find that disputes between parents and grandparents regarding grandparent visitation are not contests between equals. Grandparents may obtain an order granting them visitation rights under a statute, but parents have a fundamental constitutional right to the care, custody and control of their children. In making determinations about grandparent visitation Colorado courts must adhere to the following requirements:
- A presumption in favor of the parent’s decision concerning grandparent visitation must be applied;
- The grandparents must then rebut this presumption by show of clear and convincing evidence, that the determination is not in the child’s best interests; and
- The grandparents must show, by clear and convincing evidence, the visitation schedule they seek is in the child’s best interest.