Grandparents Rights Attorneys in Louisville, Kentucky
Many people mistakenly believe that a child custody proceeding involves only the rights of the parents to have custody and visitation of the child(ren). In Kentucky, however, grandparents may also be awarded reasonable visitation rights (and in some extreme cases, custody) when the court determines that it is in the child’s best interests to do so. Grandparents’ rights are a complicated and evolving area of the law, however, and anyone involved in this type of case is advised to obtain strong legal counsel, so your legal rights are fully protected.
At John H. Ruby & Associates, we understand the need and desire for grandparents to remain involved in the lives of their grandchildren, even after a divorce or child custody proceeding. For over two decades, we have successfully represented clients in all types of family legal matters in Kentucky. We have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to develop effective legal solutions that accomplish their objectives with an eye toward preserving delicate family relationships.
What are Grandparent Rights?
Grandparents’ rights involve the legal right of grandparents to have reasonable visitation of their grandchildren before or after a divorce, separation, or after the death of one of the parents. When there is a fissure within a family because of one of these circumstances, the grandparents frequently end up getting caught in the middle.
Although the relationship between the parents may be highly strained, the grandparents may still wish to maintain a relationship with the grandchildren. However, because of disputes between parents, the grandparents sometimes end up being shut out. This situation can often be rectified without a court proceeding if the parties are willing to be reasonable and come up with a workable arrangement.
But all too often with these types of cases, emotions run high and reason gets thrown by the wayside. At this point, a grandparent may have no other alternative (in asserting their visitation rights) than to seek a legal remedy.
Obtaining Visitation Rights of Grandchildren in Kentucky
The state of Kentucky provides for visitation rights for either paternal or maternal grandparents if the court decides that doing so would be in the child’s best interest. Kentucky law is more generous with grandparents than in many other states, but it is still limited by court precedent.
Essentially, the courts have ruled that the default presumption should be that fit parents will make decisions that are in keeping with the best interests of the child. So, if parents oppose visitation rights for the grandparents, the burden of proof is on the grandparents to overcome this presumption. That said, Kentucky courts have also ruled that even fit parents can act against a child’s best interests, and that sometimes they might withhold visitation to grandparents out of vindictiveness.
In the 2004 Kentucky appeals court case Vibbert v. Vibbert, the court laid out several factors (now known as “Vibbert factors”) to be used in determining if granting grandparent visitation would be in the child’s best interests:
- The nature and the stability of the relationship between the child and the grandparent(s);
- The amount of time the child and the grandparent(s) spend together;
- The potential benefits and detriments that granting grandparent visitation would bring to the child;
- The impact that grandparent visitation would have on the relationship between the child and the parents;
- The stability of the child’s current environment and living arrangements;
- The physical and emotional health of everyone involved;
- The wishes and preferences of the child;
- The motivation of the adults in seeking or opposing grandparent visitation rights (this factor was added later in the 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court case Walker V. Blair).
If a grandparent can show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a parental objection to visitation is groundless based on these factors, the court may grant them reasonable visitation rights.
How Does Adoption Impact Grandparents’ Rights?
If your grandchild is being adopted, your rights to visitation could be impacted, depending on the timing of the adoption. If the court orders grandparent visitation rights before a child is adopted, the adoption does not automatically terminate these rights, even though the parents’ rights may be terminated by this proceeding. If, on the other hand, an adoption of the child is completed before the court has granted visitation rights to the grandparents, then the right to ask for visitation is usually transferred to the adoptive grandparents, unless the court decides that maintaining your ties to the child is in his/her best interests.
When Can Grandparents Obtain Custody of their Grandchildren?
There are rare and limited cases in which a grandparent may be awarded custody of a grandchild in Kentucky. Legal custody would give the grandparent the right to be involved in parenting decisions on behalf of the child, and physical custody would give them the right to live with the grandchild. The default presumption of the court is that it is in the child’s best interest for a biological or adoptive parent to have custody, but there are some cases in which custody could go to a grandparent.
These are usually cases in which the parents of the child are deceased, have abandoned the child, or they are deemed to be physically or mentally unfit to raise the child. Examples of parental unfitness may include mental illness, drug addiction, and a history of domestic violence/abuse.
Another instance in which custody may be granted to a grandparent is when the grandparent has been the primary caretaker and financial supporter of the child for a certain period of time. For children ages three years and under, the minimum time period is six months. For children who are over the age of three, the minimum time period is a year.
Speak with a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Louisville, KY Family Law Attorney
Kentucky recognizes the rights of grandparents to stay involved in the lives of their grandchildren, even after a divorce or child custody proceeding. If there is a legal dispute over this issue, however, you will need a skilled advocate by your side to help you assert your grandparent rights. At John H. Ruby & Associates, we are ready to go to work for you.
If you are in the Louisville, LaGrange, Shepherdsville or Shelbyville, KY areas, call us today at 502-895-2626 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our office in person at your convenience.