Vermont Grandparent Rights Guidelines
In Vermont, parents or guardians have the right and responsibility to decide who the child can and cannot see. Grandparents may not always have a right to see their grandchild. Grandparents may ask the Court for visitation if the grandchild’s parents are in court. The court usually will not change the parent’s decision about visitation. If a parent does not want to allow a grandparent to visit, the Court will only change this if the parent is unfit or if the visits will prevent significant harm to the child’s health, safety or welfare. If the parents do not want to allow visitation, courts usually agree with the parents. Under most circumstances, a grandparent cannot start a visitation action against the parents. However, a grandparent can ask the court, if a divorce or visitation case is already open, to order grandparent visitation.
A grandparent may start an action for visitation rights in the Family Court of the county where the custodian of the minor child lives if at least one of the following is true:
- A parent of the child is deceased
- A parent is physically or mentally incapable of making a decision
- The child has been abandoned
Vermont law provides that a court which has considered or is considering the custody or visitation of a minor child may award visitation rights to a grandparent of the child, upon written request of the grandparent filed with the court, if the court finds that to do so would be in the best interest of the child.
In addition to showing the parent is unfit; the grandparent needs to show that visitation is in the best interests of the child (defined hereafter in Vermont Statute Chapter 18). If a parent of a minor child is deceased, physically or mentally incapable of making a decision or has abandoned the child, a grandparent of the child may commence an action in superior court in the county in which the custodian of the child resides to obtain visitation rights.
Enforcement of the Visitation Order
If you have a visitation order, but your grandchild’s parent will still not let you see your grandchild, you may ask the court to enforce the court order. There will be a hearing, and you should provide notice to the parent or guardian of the child.
The complete Vermont Statute on Grandparents’ Visitation is provided herein for reference only.
The Vermont Statutes
Title 15: Domestic Relations
Chapter 18: GRANDPARENTS’ VISITATION
§ 1011. Jurisdiction
(a) A court which has considered or is considering the custody or visitation of a minor child may award visitation rights to a grandparent of the child, upon written request of the grandparent filed with the court, if the court finds that to do so would be in the best interest of the child.
(b) No grandparent shall be afforded party status, but may be called as a witness by the court, and shall be subject to cross-examination by the parties.
(c) No appeal may be taken by any grandparent from the court’s decision on visitation as it pertains to any grandparent.
(d) A grandparent who has visitation rights under this section may move the court for enforcement of the court’s order in the same manner as would a party. A hearing shall be held thereon, and notice thereof shall be given to the parties pursuant to the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure.
§ 1012. If a parent is deceased or cannot decide
If a parent of a minor child is deceased, physically or mentally incapable of making a decision or has abandoned the child, a grandparent of the child may commence an action in superior court in the county in which the custodian of the child resides to obtain visitation rights. The action shall promptly be tried without a jury in the same manner as a divorce case. The custodian of the child shall be the party defendant. In the event that the custodian of the child is not the parent of the child, the parent shall also be joined as a party defendant.
§ 1013. Decision
(a) The court shall grant the petitioner reasonable visitation or access to the grandchild upon determining that to do so would be in the best interests of the child.
(b) In determining the best interests of the child, the court shall consider the following factors:
(1) the love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the grandparents involved and the child;
(2) the capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection and guidance;
(3) the nature of the relationship between the petitioner and the grandchild and the desirability of maintaining that relationship;
(4) the moral fitness of the parties;
(5) the mental and physical health of the parties;
(6) the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference;
(7) the willingness and ability of the petitioner to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parties; and
(8) any other factor which the court considers to be relevant to a just determination regarding visitation or access.
§ 1014. Modification
A court may modify or terminate any order granted under this section, issue any orders necessary to the enforcement of rights or the protection of parties under this section, and award costs for defending or prosecuting actions under this section.
§ 1015. Limit on refiling
Absent a real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances, no person whose petition under this section is denied with prejudice may file another petition under this section sooner than one year after that denial.
§ 1016. Automatic expiration
When a child subject to an order under this chapter is later adopted, the order under this chapter expires, except when the adopting parent is a stepparent, grandparent or other relative of the child.
The foregoing information is provided as general family law guidelines
In Vermont and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.org
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
About The Children (800) 787-4981