The love between a grandparent and a grandchild can be all-encompassing. Grandparents are often there to help their own children, to love and support their grandchildren and sometimes grandparents can even find themselves being the sole care provider for their grandchildren.
However, when the relationship between a parent and grandparent suffers it can often affect grandchildren and even lead a grandparent to seek Court intervention for custody and/or visitation.
While most parents do not want to sue their own children, maintaining the bond between a grandparent and grandchild can be important enough for a grandparent to seek the assistance of the Court.
In this article, we explain the rights a grandparent has under Nevada law to seek grandparent visitation and/or grandparent custody.
Do Grandparents Have The Right To Visit Their Grandchildren Under Nevada Law?
The answer to this question is sometimes...and it is a very narrow right.
In Nevada, grandparents may have the right to reasonable visitation with their grandchildren if:
- A parent of the child is deceased;
- A parent of the child is divorced or separated from the parent who has custody of the child . . . this is usually referred to as step-parent visitation
- A parent of the child has never been legally married to the other parent of the child, but cohabited with the other parent and is deceased or separated from the parent; or
- A parent of the child has relinquished his or her parental rights or his or her parental rights have been terminated.
Can A Parent Keep Me From Seeing My Grandchildren?
The answer here is "yes." Parents can keep grandparents from visiting or otherwise communicating with their grandchildren.
If a grandparent rights action is filed, the Court will be presumed that the parent is keeping the grandchild away from you because it is in the child's best interests. You, as a grandparent, will have to show the Court that this is not accurate or true and that it is in the child's best interest to have a relationship with you.
You must convince the Court, by clear and convincing evidence, that it is in the child's best interest to have visitation and/or contact with the grandparents.
What Steps Should I Take To Get Custody of My Grandchildren?
There is a family court judge in Las Vegas that often cautions grandparents about involving the Court and we feel it is important to offer the same advice here: CONSIDER THE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS.
A grandparent who seeks Court involvement is involved in a lawsuit against the grandchild's parents. This can cause further strain in a relationship and can often divide families.
It is important to remember that the Court is not there to provide family therapy but instead to apply the law to a given set of facts. In 16 years of law practice, I have yet to see a grandparent rights case repair family bonds.
So....we caution you that before you seek a lawyer and involve the Court consider whether you really want to file a lawsuit against your grandchild's parents.
If You Decide That There Is No Other Way Than Court Involvement Consider These Steps
First and foremost, you should speak with an attorney.
While our office is all for people representing themselves in family court, a grandparents rights action can be complicated, time-consuming and can often devastate families. We strongly encourage that you consult with a lawyer before filing a lawsuit for grandparent rights.
The lawsuit for grandparent rights begins like any other...you will need to file a petition with the Court asking to establish grandparent rights.
In your petition, you will need to establish why you are seeking to enforce your rights...is it that a parent is deceased? Has a parent relinquished their rights? Has a parent separated from another parent?
Remember we said there was a narrow right of grandparent visitation?
If both parents are alive and together, with parental rights intact, chances are your petition for grandparent visitation will be denied.
However . . . there may be one more option for you to pursue:
If the child has resided with the grandparents and the grandparent can establish that there is a meaningful relationship with their grandchild AND the parents have denied or unreasonably restricted visitation, a grandparent can still file a petition to enforce their rights.
Once the petition is filed, the parent(s) need to be served with the petition and a summons.
You will have to wait 20 days from the time the parent(s) is served with the petition for the parent to respond to the petition.
Once the parent(s) have filed a written response with the Court, the judge will decide whether or not to grant the petition for grandparent rights. This can be done by motion but most likely will end up in a trial to decide whether or not grandparent rights should be granted.
How Does The Judge Decide If I Should Have Visitation With My Grandchild?
In Nevada, our statues list the factors the Judge must consider in order to award grandparent visitation. These factors include:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties that exist between the party seeking visitation and the child.
- The prior relationship between the child and the party seeking visitation, including whether the child resided with the party seeking visitation and whether the child was included in holidays and family gathering with the party seeking visitation.
- The moral fitness of the party seeking visitation.
- The mental and physical health of the party seeking visitation.
- The reasonable preference of the child.
- The willingness and ability of the party seeking visitation to facilitate and encourage a continuing relationship between the child and the parents of the child as well as with other relatives.
- The medical and other needs of the child related to health as affected by the visitation.
- The support provided by the party seeking visitation, including financial support provided for the support of the child.
- The capacity and disposition of the party seeking visitation to:
- Give the child love, affection and guidance and serve as a role model to the child;
- Cooperate in providing the child with food, clothing, and other material needs during visitation; and
- Cooperate in providing the child with health care.
- Other factors the court deems relevant.
If You Want to File A Grandparent Rights Action It Is Important to Know Your Adversaries
Keep in mind that your grandchild has two parents.
If you are alleging that one of the parents is unfit, you will need to consider whether this argument applies to your own child - is your own child unfit?
You should also be sure the unfitness argument doesn't apply to you...will a Court find you unfit?
If so, a grandparent rights action will likely be denied.
If you move forward with a grandparent rights case, it is important to understand that if you are only able to prove your case against your own child, you may create the unintentional consequence of custody being awarded to the other parent.
So....this is where we push you to consult with an attorney to determine whether you really want to, or need to, file a grandparent rights case.
Use The Facts To Your Benefit
Child safety and security is always a paramount consideration by our family court.
If you are dealing with an unfit parent or a parent who is placing your grandchild in a dangerous or unsafe situation you should be prepared to use these facts to your advantage.
For example, if the biological parents have been arrested for a crime, are using drugs or have out of control mental health problems, you should immediately step forward to take custody of your grandchildren.
Do Not Interfere With the Parent-Child Relationship
Remember that one of the factors the Court will consider is whether or not the parent has unreasonably denied contact or restricted visitation.
If you are constantly bad-mouthing the parent or if you are going behind a parent's back to break the parent's rules with their own child, there is a good chance a Court will not find that the parent has unreasonably restricted your contact.
It is important that as a grandparent, you support the parent caring for your grandchild.
If necessary, be a resource to supervise contact between your own child and your grandchildren.
Why Should I Hire An Attorney For My Case?
As we stated above, grandparent rights cases can be complicated.
Knowing and understanding the presumptions you must overcome as well as the factors considered in a best interest analysis in a grandparents rights case are critical.
It is important to have an attorney that understands the law and knows the burdens that must be overcome in a grandparent rights action.
If you have been unreasonably denied the right to visit your grandchildren, know that rebutting the presumption that granting such visitation rights would not be in the best interest of the child is a difficult, fact-specific inquiry.
Every case and every familial relationship is different, and your circumstances might not squarely fit the court's process for determining the best interests of the child.
We hope you have enjoyed this article. If so, please leave a comment below.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with a grandparent rights case, call us today at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form to request more information. Our office has handled many grandparents rights actions and we can help.