What rights to visitation do Grandparents have regarding their grandchldren?
Parental rights to the care, custody, and management of children is a fundamental liberty interest warranting great deference and vigilant protection under the law. This means that a parent may choose to disallow visitation or contact with a grandparent.
In Louisiana, grandparent rights are limited but there are circumstances that would allow a grandparent visitation.
Pursuant to La. C.C. article 136, a grandparent may be granted visitation if the parents of the child are not married or cohabitating with a person in the manner of married persons or if the parents of the child have filed a petition for divorce if the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child.
In determining the child’s best interest, the court shall consider the following:
(1) A parent’s fundamental constitutional right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their own children and the traditional presumption that a fit parent will act in the best interest of their children.
(2) The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and relative.
(3) Whether the child is in need of guidance, enlightenment, or tutelage which can best be provided by the relative.
(4) The preference of the child if he is determined to be of sufficient maturity.
(5) The mental and physical health of the child and the relative.
La CC art. 136(D).
If the parents of a child are married and have not filed for divorce or they are living in concubinage, La. R.S. 9§344 shall apply.
Under La. R.S. 9§344, grandparents may have visitation rights:
1. If one of the parties to a marriage dies, is interdicted, or incarcerated;
2. When the parents of a minor child or children live in concubinage and one of the parents dies, or is incarcerated;
3. If the parents of a child of the marriage have lived apart for a period of six months, in extraordinary circumstances, grandparents may have reasonable visitation rights. Extraordinary circumstances shall include a determination by a court that a parent is abusing a controlled dangerous substance.
In all cases, visitation with the grandparent must be in the child’s best interest.
Under La. C.C. article 133, if an award of joint custody or sole custody to either parent would result in substantial harm to the child, the court shall award custody to another person with whom the child has been living in a wholesome and stable environment, or otherwise to any other person able to provide an adequate and stable environment.
This would, of course, include grandparents, but note, a finding of substantial harm is a high burden.