Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Maine?

Learn about grandparents’ rights to court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren after life-altering changes in the family structure.

If you are concerned about a parent limiting your time with your grandchild during or after divorce, separation, or the other parent's death, you may be able to request court-ordered time from the family court in your state. This article explains when and how grandparents can request reasonable visitation with their grandchildren in Maine.

Do I Have a Legal Right to Grandparent Visitation?

In Maine, grandparents have a legal right to ask the court for reasonable visitation with their grandchildren if:

  • one or both parents die
  • the grandparent and child have an established relationship, or
  • the grandparent has made a significant effort to develop a relationship with the child.

What Must I Prove in Court?

You have the "burden of proof" (duty to provide sufficient evidence) to demonstrate appropriate legal grounds to request court-ordered time, and to prove that your visits serve the child's best interest without interfering with the parent's time or parental authority.

First, you must identify your legal basis for requesting time:

  • one or both parents died
  • you and the child have an established relationship, or
  • you have made a significant attempt to develop a relationship.

Unless the proposed visits are based upon the death of a parent, you must describe the extent of your relationship (or your efforts to establish one) in a statement with your request.

Next, you must show that the proposed time is in the child's best interest based on any relevant evidence, including but not limited to:

  • the child's age, physical health, and emotional well being
  • the child's relationship with the grandparent
  • the child's preferences if mature enough to state an opinion
  • the child's adjustment to the current home, school, and community
  • history of cooperation and communication between the parent, grandparent, and others involved in child care
  • any history of sexual or physical abuse by the parent or grandparent
  • any history of neglect or emotional abuse by the parent or grandparent
  • the grandparent's history of care giving or parenting on behalf of the parent
  • the child's educational and safety needs, and
  • the grandparents' mental health and any past or current drug or alcohol abuse.

A grandparent convicted of sexual abuse may be granted visitation if the court finds it serves the child's interests and a professional agency or family member with a clean criminal background supervises the visits.

Do I Have Rights if My Grandchild Is Adopted by Another Family?

An adoption by anyone other than a stepparent transfers all legal rights from a child's biological parents and relatives to the adoptive parents and family. If your grandchild is placed for adoption with another family after you have court-ordered visits, you may be allowed to continue exercising your rights while the adoption is pending if it takes longer than 18 months to be finalized.

How do I get Custody or Guardianship of my Grandchild?

Anyone can ask to be appointed as a temporary guardian if a child's parents consent, their legal rights are terminated, or they are unable to care for their child because they are incarcerated, hospitalized, or otherwise unwilling to maintain their role as primary caretakers.

Similarly, any relative or non-relative can ask the court for custody by proving the natural or legal parents are unfit because they are unable to provide the child with a safe and supportive living environment. Once you show the child's parents are unfit, you must demonstrate that living with you would be in the child's best interests, considering the child's health, safety, and general welfare.

How do I Start the Process?

First, you will need to file a "petition," (formal written request) in the county where the child lives or in the court making custody and visitation orders regarding your grandchild. In your petition, unless you are requesting visitation after one or both parents died, you will describe your existing relationship (or efforts to establish one) with the child and your proposed schedule for court-ordered time. If you already have a 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) it, or enforce the order.

Once you file your request, you must give notice to at least one of the child's parents. Before scheduling a hearing, the court may require you to attempt to reach an agreement with the child's parent by participating in mediation with the child's parent. An agreement reached in mediation can be presented to the judge to adopt as a court order.

If you have questions about your right to spend time with your grandchild, you should speak to a local, experienced family law attorney, who can help you navigate this process.

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