What Grandparents’ Rights Are Available in Tennessee?

Helping Nashville families through the divorce process

Family bonds are important. When a couple divorces, grandparents can feel left out of the child’s life and they want to do everything they can to maintain a good relationship with their grandchild. When tragedy strikes and one or both parents of a child pass away, grandparents often come forward to raise the child. If the relationship between a parent and grandparent becomes strained it can drive a wedge between family members and make visitation for grandparents difficult. At the law firm of Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC we know the vital role grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren. We can assist you in pursuing visitation with your grandchildren if you meet the requirements set by the Tennessee General Assembly.

What grandparents’ rights are available in Tennessee?

Under Tennessee law, to qualify as a legal grandparent you must be a biological grandparent, the spouse of a biological grandparent or the parent of an adoptive parent. Grandparents can petition the Court for visitation if the custodial parent will not allow them to have access to their grandchildren under the following circumstances:

Under what circumstances can a grandparent claim visitation rights?

The “Grandparents Visitation Statute” in Tennessee law allows for specific circumstances under which the court can order grandparent visitation and even custodial rights including:

  • One (or both) of the child’s parents is deceased, divorced, legally separated or never married to each other
  • One of the child’s parents has been missing for at least six months
  • The child has lived in the grandparent’s home for twelve months or more and was subsequently removed by the parent
  • There exists a significant relationship between the grandparent and grandchild for at least twelve months. The parent ended the relationship not because of abuse or endangerment, and the ending of this relationship is likely to cause “substantial emotional harm” to the child.
  • Another state has ordered visitation for the grandparent

When deciding grandparent visitation or custody cases, the court always has the best interests of the child in mind. When the grandparent has served as the child’s primary caregiver, ending the relationship might mean that the child could be hurt physically and emotionally. The law mentions that ending a significant existing relationship between the grandparent and grandchild could cause “other direct and substantial harm” to the child.

If, after considering what kind of relationship exists between the grandparent and grandchild the court decides that there is no danger to the child if visitation is prohibited, the court leaves the decision of visitation to the parents.

If the courts decide that there is a risk of harm to the child if visitation is prohibited, the court makes a ruling on visitation that is in the best interests of the child.

The standard of proof for evaluating the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, and whether the loss of that relationship might be harmful to the child is whether a “reasonable person” would agree with the presented facts.

Grandparents’ rights end in adoption

If a child is adopted by someone who is not a relative or a stepparent, the grandparent’s visitation rights automatically come to an end.

Questions about your rights to visitation as a grandparent in Nashville?

Are you concerned about being able to have visitation time with your grandchildren after their parents’ divorce? We at Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC work hard to inspire confidence and relieve stress for our clients during divorce and other family law disputes in the Nashville area. Call us today at 615-391-4200 or contact us online to schedule an in-person or video consultation with an experienced attorney.