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It’s a sad fact that many marriages end in divorce. This is no exception in the New York City area. Relationships, including those within the family, can change for any number of reasons. When a child is involved, it can really take its toll on that child, as well as on other, adult family members. Grandparents can be impacted by a divorce when their grandchildren are moved to another city or state, or even worse if the parent doesn’t want them to continue having a relationship with their child. However, in New York City and the state of New York in general, grandparents have legal rights that make it possible for them to continue having a relationship with their grandchildren.

Many things can happen within a family, whether a couple with children gets a divorce or just goes through a legal separation. This type of situation can always affect other family members due to the child being moved away and unable to see those relatives as often as they used to. Grandparents are frequently affected and may need to turn to the law in order to continue having a relationship with the child.

What are a Grandparent’s Rights in New York City?

In New York City and the rest of the state of New York, grandparents can pursue their legal rights toward children. However, the same can be said for other relatives who are not the parents of the children within the family, such as aunts and uncles, adoptive parents, step-parents and other relatives. Generally speaking, the main aspect of this part of the law is that the person who is trying to gain visitation or custody of the child have a substantial relationship with them. By “substantial relationship,” the court considers a strong relationship between the individual and the child that includes a bond that will be explored. When a person is trying to gain non-custodial rights to a child, it can be very challenging. However, the courts in New York City have determined that when children have relationships with grandparents and other family members, it can result in many positive outcomes for the child.

Courts Consider What’s in the Best Interests of the Child

After the court has established that the grandparents have legal standing to maintain their relationship with the child, the grandparents can file a request for visitation or custody. They might want to consult with a family law attorney who can help them through the process. The court ensures that the parent or legal guardian of the child is provided with a notice of the legal action. At the end of the case, the court decides what happens based on the best interests of the child.

Legal Standing

In New York City and the rest of the state, grandparents and other relatives are able to file a petition with the court for visitation and even custody of a child, as long as they have legal standing. Legal standing means they are required to meet specific criteria for a case to be heard in the court. One way they can have legal standing is if one or both of the child’s parents are deceased.

Extraordinary Circumstances

Certain situations, known as extraordinary circumstances, can give grandparents legal standing as well. If the parents choose to give up their legal rights to their child and have not had contact with the child for a period of 24 straight months, the child’s grandparents and other relatives can have standing. If the child lives in their grandparents’ home for that time frame, it can result in the grandparents gaining legal custody of the child. A parent abandoning their child is considered an extraordinary circumstance. Another scenario is a parent who is physically or mentally unfit to care for the child.

Burden of Proof

The grandparents have the burden of proof to show that being in the child’s life and maintaining a relationship with them is in the best interests of that child. A few factors can show the proof, such as the relationship they have maintained with the child, as well as their efforts to keep that relationship intact. Grandparents are also required to show why the parents’ opposition to their ability to have visitation or custody is not based on a realistic fear or reason. The court will always take all evidence into consideration and will choose what is best for the child first and foremost.

If you are a grandparent in the New York City area who wants to fight to maintain a relationship with your grandchild, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced family law attorney to start your petition.

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