Grandparent Visitation

I often receive inquiries from grandparents wondering what options they have to see their grandchildren. It’s not uncommon for a custodial parent to deny the grandparents (on the other side) time with the grandkids. I often hear things like, “If his parents want to see the kids, it can happen during his visitation!” However, this scenario places the non-custodial parent in the position of having to forfeit some of their [limited] time with the children in order for the grandparents to see the kids. Sometimes parents attempt to establish times the child(ren) can see the grandparents in an Agreement that is filed with the Court under a Complaint for Divorce or Custody-Support-Parenting Time. Unfortunately, as the grandparents are not parties to these types of actions, the Court will not approve such provisions.

Thankfully, there is a statute and case law in Massachusetts that does provide grandparents some rights to visitation in certain circumstances. A grandparent can petition the Probate & Family Court under M.G.L. ch. 119, sec. 39D only if the parents of the minor child(ren) are:

  • Married, but living apart under a Temporary Order or Judgment of Separate Support;
  • Either or both deceased;
  • Unmarried and paternity has been acknowledged and the parents do not live together.

The statute very clearly excludes children of parents who live together.

Upon a Petition for Grandparent Visitation, the Court is guided by the overarching principle of what is in the best interest of the child(ren). There is a presumption that parental decisions regarding grandparent visitation are valid and should be honored. Grandparents seeking visitation must overcome this presumption by alleging and proving that failure to grant visitation rights to the grandparents would result in significant harm to the child(ren)’s health, safety or welfare. The grandparents must also prove that there was a significant preexisting relationship with the child(ren) that should be continued.

If the grandparents are able to establish the preexisting relationship and successfully rebut the presumption, the Court will enter an Order setting out when the grandparents can see the child(ren). The Court will use its best judgment in establishing a fair schedule that serves the best interest of the child(ren) without significantly impeding either parent’s time with the child(ren).

Considering filing a Petition for Grandparent Visitation? Call Broadbent & Taylor for a free consultation today!



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Known Sperm Donor Agreements

In today’s day and age, many individuals choose to use sperm donation in order to conceive. Often, a woman may choose to use a known sperm donation rather than an anonymous donor from a sperm bank. There are many benefits from using a known sperm donor, but it also opens the door to many potential pitfalls. A multitude of protections are provided when using a sperm bank, including, but not limited to anonymity of the donor, genetic screening and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. These protections are not necessarily present when using a known sperm donor; however, that does not mitigate the necessity of these protections. In these situations, it is essential to enter into a sperm donor agreement.

A Known Sperm Donor Agreement will contain the terms of the arrangement and should outline, at a minimum, the following:

  • Whether the donor will  sever all legal rights to the child and the responsibilities associated therewith, including: visitation, decision-making regarding the child’s health, religion, schooling, or anything else, and child support;
  • What medical and genetic information the donor will provide;
  • whether the donor will undergo any pre-donation testing (medical, genetic, STD) and who will pay for the testing;
  • Whether the donor’s identity will be shared with the child, and at what point this information will be shared.

The use of a Known Sperm Donor Agreement will assist in preempting any future disagreements between the donor and the Mother. It is important that there be a mutual feeling of trust between the Mother and the donor. Thorough discussions are imperative, and it is highly recommended that both sides engage private counsel to assist with all negotiations.

This post was written by Attorney Catherine Taylor and is for informational purposes only. Nothing contained within this post should be construed as legal advice.