Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Idaho?

Learn about grandparents’ rights to court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren.

Changes in the family structure after a divorce, separation, or a parent's death can disrupt a grandparent's relationship with their grandchild if the custodial or surviving parent tries to limit their time together. This article will explain when and how you can ask for grandparent visitation in Idaho.

Do I have a legal right to spend time with my grandchild?

Yes, in Idaho, grandparents have a legal right to request court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren. Generally, grandparents can attempt to exercise this right at any time, including during or after a divorce, separation, and/or after either parent's death.

What do I need to prove in court?

A grandparent asking the court for visitation has the "burden of proof" (the duty to provide sufficient evidence) to show a judge the proposed time is in the best interests of the children, considering their health, safety, and general welfare.

An existing grandparent-grandchild relationship can be enough to establish that grandparent visitation is in a child's best interest, unless there is compelling evidence that it will negatively impact the child.

For example, your grandchild's parent might show a pattern of behavior problems immediately before and after the child spends time with you, or that their conflict with you creates a stressful environment for the child. Depending on the severity and credibility of the opposing parent's concerns, this type of evidence might be enough to convince a judge that visitation is not in your grandchild's best interest, despite your established relationship.

What if my grandchild's parent objects to my request for grandparent visitation?

Parents have a "fundamental" (constitutionally protected) right to raise their children and make decisions about who they spend time with. However, the court is not required to defer to the parents if a grandparent can shows that visitation is in a child's best interest. If you ask for visitation with your grandchild, the court may grant your request against the parent's wishes if it finds that an ongoing relationship with you would serve the child's best interests. The court must show that it did give the parent's objections special weight.

Do grandparent visitation rights extend to other family members?

Yes, grandparents and great-grandparents can both exercise visitation rights in Idaho. If you're a great-grandparent, you can request scheduled time with your great-grandchild under Idaho's grandparent visitation law. Just like a grandparent, you'll need to establish that spending time with you is in the child's best interests.

What if my grandchild's parents were never married?

Your grandchild's parents do not need to have been married in order for you to ask the court for visitation in Idaho.

Do I still have grandparent visitation rights if my grandchild is adopted by another family?

No. In Idaho, these rights are cut off when the legal parents' rights are terminated pursuant to an adoption.

How can I get custody of my grandchild?

During a divorce, the court considers a number of factors to choose a custody arrangement that is in a child's best interest, including:

  • the parents' wishes
  • the child's wishes
  • the child's relationship with parents, siblings, and other significant persons
  • the child's adjustment to home, school, and community
  • the character and circumstances (mental and physical health) of all persons involved
  • the need to promote continuity and stability in the child's life, and
  • any history of domestic violence.

Idaho courts presume that custody with a biological or legal parent is in a child's best interest, unless a grandparent requests custody during a divorce proceeding and proves they have a substantial relationship with their grandchild and have been acting as the child's temporary custodian.

If your grandchild's parents are getting divorced, you can ask for custody if the child has been living in your home, and you have a substantial grandparent-grandchild relationship. If the natural parents object, the court will consider the above factors to decide between the competing requests, focusing on which custodial arrangement serves the child's best interest.

How do I start the process?

You will need to file a "petition" (a formal, written request) in the district court for the county where the child lives. If you already have a grandparent visitation order, but you want more time, or the child's parent is preventing you from visiting, you can ask the court to modify (change) or enforce the order.

If you have questions, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney in your area, who can help you navigate this process.

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