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What are my grandparent's rights in Rhode Island?

Like most grandparents, you adore your grandchildren. You may see your own children in their faces, and you now have the opportunity to shower them with the tenderness you may not have had time for in the harried and insecure days of parenthood. Unfortunately, if your child is heading for divorce, you may have concerns about how it will affect your relationship with your grandchildren.

In many cases, divorcing parents are able to overcome their personal conflicts and consider the needs and desires of grandparents. They may arrange regular visitation and remember to include grandparents in family events. If you suspect this will not be the case with your child's divorce, you may wonder what Rhode Island laws provide in the area of grandparent rights.

Cause for petition

There are numerous circumstances when a grandparent may fear losing touch with his or her grandchildren. For example, if your child who is the parent of your grandchildren should pass away, the child's other parent may refuse or limit your access to the children. On the other hand, if you and your child or your child's spouse do not get along, they may prevent you from seeing the children. However, you may be able to file for court-ordered visitation if the following factors are present:

  • You have made repeated attempts to gain time with the children during the 30 days prior to your filing the visitation petition.
  • No reasons exist for the court to declare you are unfit to be with the children.
  • You would have no other access to your grandchildren unless the court orders it.

In other words, if you have even a few minutes a month with your grandchildren, the court may not intervene in the parent's decision to limit visitation. You will have a heavy burden to prove that the parents are being unreasonable in denying you visitation.

Fit and proper

The court's determination that you are fit and proper for the children to be around can be a delicate matter. Rhode Island courts denied grandparent visitation to a grandmother because of her animosity toward the child's father, who was the ex-husband of the grandmother's deceased daughter.

Difficult as it may be to maintain as positive a relationship as possible with your child and his or her spouse, this relationship may carry tremendous influence on the court's decision to grant your petition. Having skilled legal representation may also offer a decided advantage.

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