What You Need to Know About Grandparent Custody Rights in Michigan
Michigan does not grant as many custody and visitation rights to grandparents as it does to parents so securing a place in their grandchildren’s lives can be a difficult process, especially when opposed by both parents. Here’s everything you need to know about grandparent custody rights in Michigan.
Michigan family law operates under the presumption that a mentally fit parent is able to decide whether to allow their children to have visitation with their grandparents. Parents seeking to prohibit grandparent visitation must prove severing this relationship does not constitute an injury upon the child. This presumption means grandparents must work dually to prove the conditions of prohibiting a relationship with the grandparents will be injurious to the child and that grandparent visitation or custody is in the child’s best interest.
Related: Michigan Child Custody FAQs
When Can a Grandparenting Time Order Be Requested in Michigan?
One or more of the following circumstances may allow a grandparent to request a time order from the court:
- An action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment involving the child’s parents is pending before the court
- The child’s parents are divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance, or have had their marriage annulled
- The child’s parent, who is a child of the grandparents, is deceased
- The child’s parents have never been married, they are not residing in the same household, and paternity has been established by the completion of an acknowledgment of parentage
- Legal custody of the child has been given to a person other than the child’s parent, or the child is placed outside of and does not reside in the home of a parent
- In the year preceding the commencement of the grandparenting time order request, the grandparent provided an established custodial environment for the child whether or not the grandparent had custody under a court order
Certain caveats exist. For example, in cases where the child’s parents were never married, parental grandparents cannot request visitation or custody unless the father’s parentage has been certified according to the standards laid out in Michigan’s Parentage Act. To make sure a grandparent meets the basic conditions for a time order request, an attorney should be consulted prior to any court action.
Once the preconditions are met, the grandparent can commence action by filing a motion or complaint to the circuit court for the county where the child resides.
Proving the Likelihood of Injury in Michigan
The first step in gaining visitation or custody rights is overcoming the earlier mentioned presumption that a mentally fit parent can prohibit his or her child from grandparent visitation without causing serious injury to the child. A grandparent seeking visitation must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the child is more likely to suffer serious damage to their mental, physical, or emotional health if denied grandparental time. Because Michigan courts operate under the assumption that it is in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with their parents, this can be difficult to prove.
In the case of custody, the bar is even higher, requiring the grandparent to prove the parents are unfit to care for the child. This goes beyond showing a lack of means or failure to provide key childhood milestones. Again, the court requires proof of likely endangerment to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.
Arguing for the Child’s Best Interests in Grandparent Custody Cases
After completing the first step, the next challenge for grandparents is to show the court how visitation or custody is in the child’s best interests. There are nine factors the court considers when making its judgment, along with any others deemed relevant in a specific case.
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the grandparent and the child
- The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent, the role performed by the grandparent, and the existing emotional ties of the child to the grandparent
- The grandparent’s moral fitness
- The grandparent’s mental and physical health
- The child’s reasonable preference (if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express one)
- The effect on the child of hostility between the grandparent and the parent of the child
- The willingness of the grandparent, except in the case of abuse or neglect, to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent or parents of the child
- Any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect of any child by the grandparent
- Whether the parent’s decision to deny grandparenting time is related to the child’s well-being or is for some other unrelated reason
Ultimately, success for a grandparent will depend on the specifics of their case, the mental fitness of the child’s parents, and the safety of the child if denied visitation or custody. The standard in Michigan can be hard to meet but an experienced attorney can offer guidance and help determine the likelihood of success for a grandparenting time order request.
What if both parents oppose the right to visitation?
If both parents sign an affidavit stating opposition to the order for grandparenting time, the court may dismiss the grandparent’s request. In this case, there is very little the grandparent can do.
Can I take action toward visitation or custody if my child is a step-parent to the grandchild?
If parentage of the step-parent has been certified to Michigan’s standards outlined in the Parentage Act, the same rights to file for a time order apply.
What if parentage has not been established?
If parentage has not been certified before the court, the relevant grandparents cannot file a motion or complaint for visitation or custody.
Can the child express their custody preferences?
If the child is at least 6 years of age, they are considered to have the capacity to express preference in any disputes.
Can I file for a time order multiple times?
Grandparents can file for a time order every 2 years barring any “good cause” for a motion or complaint within the 2 year period.