Grandparents in Kentucky have rights to visit their grandchildren with exception. The Kentucky Legislature has recognized that when grandparents have a “significant and viable” relationship with their grandchild, visitation is likely in the child’s best interest. However, this does not mean that grandparents will be automatically granted visitation rights. There are several different scenarios in which a grandparent may or may not have visitation rights.
A fit parent has the right to determine who may or may not visit their child according to the United States Supreme Court. If a custodial, fit parent decides that they do not want their child to have contact or visitation with any or all grandparents, that decision may be final. Courts are required to presume that fit parents act in the best interest of their children, and this is an extremely difficult obstacle to hurdle when trying to gain visitation rights with one’s grandchildren. The more likely question in situations like this is whether or not the custodial parent is actually “fit.” If the parent is found to be unfit, then it would likely be an issue of custody rather than visitation.
The situation becomes much different when a non-parent is granted custody of a child. When this happens, the right to deny visitation and the presumption that the custodian is acting in the child’s best interest are no longer present. Grandparents in a situation in which the child’s other grandparents or someone else was granted custody will have a much easier burden to overcome when attempting to gain visitation rights. Kentucky has recognized that in situations like this, grandparents have a right to visitation if it is in the best interest of the child. At this point, it is up to the court to decide, and the Kentucky Supreme Court has outlined, what will be considered when grandparents seek visitation rights.
The factors a court will consider essentially amount to the nature of the relationship between the child and the grandparents seeking visitation. The court will consider things like: the amount of time the grandparents have spent with the child, the stability of the child’s life including effects on their relationship with their parents, the benefits or detriments to the visitation would cause to the child, the child’s wishes, and the motivation of the adults involved in seeking visitation. These factors are not considered in a vacuum, and courts will view each case in light of the circumstances surrounding it. Some factors may be relevant and others may not depending on the situation.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has recognized that “in recent years, many grandparents have become increasingly involved in their grandchildren’s lives.” This recognition means that courts realize that many grandparents have cared for and even raised their grandchildren in Kentucky and will be more sympathetic when faced with grandparents in these situations. If you have questions about seeking custody of or visitation with your grandchild, you should contact a local attorney. The attorneys at Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey would be happy to talk to you about your concerns.
1. Morton v. Tipton, 569 S.W.3d 388, 393 (Ky. 2019).
2. KRS § 405.021.
3. Walker v. Blair, 382 S.W.3d 862, 867 (Ky. 2012).