Grandparents can play an important role in the development of their grandchildren. Unfortunately, the relationship between grandchildren and their grandparents is sometimes overlooked in a divorce or other custody-related proceeding. For example, a husband or wife who harbors hostile feelings toward his or her spouse may cut-off communications with his or her spouse’s parents, and consequently cut off communications between a grandchild and his grandparents. Under Colorado law, however, grandparents may seek a court order granting them reasonable grandchild visitation rights when there is or has been a child custody case. This article explains what is involved in arranging for a grandparent visitation order.
Who is a “Grandparent” and When Can a Grandparent Seek Visitation Rights?
Generally, a “grandparent” means a person who is the parent of a child’s father or mother, who is related to the child by blood, in whole or by half, adoption, or marriage. A grandparent can ask for visitation in a child custody case. A child custody case includes any of the following, whether or not custody was specifically at issue: (a) divorce; (b) a case where legal custody of the child has been given to a party other than the child’s parent; or (c) where the child’s parent, who is the child of the grandparent, has died. Any order granting or denying visitation rights to a parent does not affect visitation rights granted to a grandparent.
How is the Grandparent Visitation Order Obtained?
To obtain the visitation order, a grandparent simply needs to file a motion and an affidavit in the district court where the grandchild resides. A filing fee may also need to be paid. The party with legal custody of the grandchild may file opposing affidavits, if, for example, the person with custody of the grandchild does not want the grandparent to have visitation or if the person with custody opposes the proposed visitation schedule. If neither party requests a hearing, the court is required to enter an order granting visitation to the grandparent, but only if the court finds that visitation is in the best interests of the grandchild.
No grandparent may file an affidavit seeking an order granting grandparent visitation rights more than once every two years, unless the grandparent can show the court good cause for doing so. The court may award attorney fees to the prevailing party. The court may make an order modifying or terminating grandchild visitation rights whenever such order would serve the best interests of the grandchild. If a person with legal custody does not comply with a grandparent visitation order, the court may invoke its contempt powers to enforce the visitation rights.
When a parent is trying to handle the stress associated with divorce or another custody proceeding, the valuable relationship between a grandchild and his grandparents can sometimes be overlooked. Grandparents may need, and have a legal right, to ensure that their grandchildren are not deprived of the unique relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren.