First, it must be noted that grandparents have no right to request a visitation hearing in Tennessee if, one, the parents are still married to each other or, two, a divorce and then the step-parent legally adopts the child at issue and the parties are married. The Courts have ruled that fit parents in an intact marriage have the right to privacy in deciding whether or not to allow visitation with a Grandparent.
So, in what circumstances may a Grandparent request a Court hearing for visitation rights? Those circumstances are outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-306 and are summarized here:
1. One parent is deceased.
2. The parents are divorced, separated, or never married.
3. One parent has been missing for at least six (6) months.
4. The child lived with the Grandparent for at least twelve (12) months before being removed by a parent.
5. The child had a “significant existing relationship” with the Grandparent for a year before the parents severed the association; and loss of that relationship is likely to be emotionally harmful for the child.
6. If a court of a different state granted Grandparent visitation to the petitioners, then those Grandparents also have the right to request a visitation hearing in Tennessee court.
Once a hearing is granted, the Court will determine whether, and in what amount, Grandparent visitation is granted pursuant to case law and the following section of the same Code mentioned above:
(b)(1) In considering a petition for grandparent visitation, the court shall first determine the presence of a danger of substantial harm to the child. Such finding of substantial harm may be based upon cessation of the relationship between an unmarried minor child and the child's grandparent if the court determines, upon proper proof, that:
(A) The child had such a significant existing relationship with the grandparent that loss of the relationship is likely to occasion severe emotional harm to the child;
(B) The grandparent functioned as a primary caregiver such that cessation of the relationship could interrupt provision of the daily needs of the child and thus occasion physical or emotional harm; or
(C) The child had a significant existing relationship with the grandparent and loss of the relationship presents the danger of other direct and substantial harm to the child.
(2) For purposes of this section, a grandparent shall be deemed to have a significant existing relationship with a grandchild if:
(A) The child resided with the grandparent for at least six (6) consecutive months;
(B) The grandparent was a full-time caretaker of the child for a period of not less than six (6) consecutive months; or
(C) The grandparent had frequent visitation with the child who is the subject of the suit for a period of not less than one (1) year.
If you are seeking Grandparent visitation rights in Montgomery County Tennessee, it is advisable to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney that is familiar with custody and visitation rights and keeps abreast of new developments in case law. McFarland Law Office, located in Clarksville, Montgomery County, would be happy to discuss your particular circumstances, and if appropriate, present the best possible evidence to the Court that you should be granted Grandparent visitation rights. Consultations are always free and we can be reached at (931) 516-9009.