Under Michigan law, all grandparents, whether paternal or maternal, have potential visitation rights, which are referred to by the legal community as "grandparenting time."
Michigan grandparents can ask a court to award them grandparenting time if one or more of the following situations apply:
Many people are able to talk informally and work out a reasonable grandparenting time schedule. If they can't reach an informal agreement, however, grandparents will have to go to court and ask a judge to issue an order giving them grandparenting time.
There are two possible options.
In the first option, you'll file a motion with the court asking that a judge grant your request for grandparenting time. It's very important that you file your motion in the correct place. You must file the motion in circuit court in the county where the court has "continuing jurisdiction" (meaning, the ongoing power to make decisions) over the dispute. The court that has continuing jurisdiction is not necessarily located in the place where your grandchild lives. If you have any questions about where to file, you should contact an experienced family law attorney.
In the second option, you can file either a “complaint” (legal paperwork that starts a lawsuit) or a motion in the circuit court in the county where your grandchild lives. The complaint or motion must include an “affidavit” (written declaration) that sets out all the facts that support your request. You'll also have to notify everyone who has legal custody or parenting time about your complaint or motion
In either scenario, expect that the other parties will file a counter affidavit with the court, explaining why they won't agree to your request. Anyone can request a hearing, but if no one does, the judge will likely schedule one anyway. The judge will want to hear everyone out before making a decision.
There are two major hurdles you'll have to clear before a judge will award you grandparenting time.
In the state of Michigan, there is a presumption (a legal assumption) that a fit parent's decision to deny grandparenting time doesn't create a substantial risk of harm to the child's mental, physical, or emotional health.
You'll have to overcome the presumption by a “preponderance of the evidence” (proof that it is more likely than not) that your grandchildren will suffer mental, physical, or emotional harm if they don't spend time with you. The judge will not move on to the second phase unless you can show potential harm to the children.
If the judge finds you've overcome the presumption, the question becomes whether it is in your grandchild's best interests to spend time with you. The court must consider all of the following ten factors:
If the judge decides that it's in your grandchild's best interest to spend time with you, then the court will issue an order allowing you to spend a reasonable amount of time with your grandchild. The amount of time and the circumstances of the visits will depend on the particular facts of your case.
Yes. Generally, if your grandchild is placed for adoption or adopted, that terminates your right to court-ordered grandparenting time.
There are some exceptions to this, but they're complex and should be explored with an experienced family law attorney. The most common and important exception to the rule is that if a stepparent adopts your grandchild, you don't lose your grandparenting time rights.