Can Grandparents Petition for Visitation?
The Colorado Children's Code provides that any grandparent or great-grandparent of a child can seek reasonable visitation rights in a limited set of circumstances. In order to be allowed to seek such rights, one of three things must be true:
- The marriage of the child's parents has been declared invalid or has been dissolved (or a court has entered a decree of legal separation).
- Someone other than the child's parent has been granted legal custody or the child has been placed outside of and does not reside in the home of the child's parent (but, this does not include any child who has been placed for adoption or who has had an adoption finalized).
- The child's parent, who is the child of the grandparent or grandchild of the great-grandparent, is deceased.
When the parents of a child are married and there has been no prior court intervention, a grandparent (or great-grandparent) is not allowed to petition for visitation regardless of whether he or she thinks it is in the best interest of the grandchild. In re D.C., 116 P.3d 1251, 1253 (Colo. App. 2005).
In addition to the affirmative requirement above, a grandparent or great-grandparent must not have filed for visitation within the past two years unless there is good cause for doing so.
What is the standard to obtain visitation over the objection of a parent?
The Supreme Court of the United States has explained that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protected the ability of parents to make certain decisions about the care, custody, and control of their children. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 66 (2000). Because of this Constitutional protection, it is difficult to obtain visitation over the objection of a parent. There is a rebuttable presumption that the decision of the child's parent regarding visitation with grandparents is proper. In order to rebut this presumption, you must prove by clear and convincing evidence (which is a higher standard of proof that is required in most civil cases but a lower standard than is required in criminal cases) that the parent's decision is not in the child's best interests. Only then can you obtain visitation over the objection of a parent.
This article covers the very basics of Colorado law regarding grandparent visitation. Because every case is different, you should rely on this article only for educational purposes and seek the assistance of an attorney if you are dealing with an issue covered by this article. This article is not intended to be legal advice.