Studies consistently show that both grandparents and grandchildren benefit from close and regular contact. For many, fostering this bond is an easy thing that flows naturally out of close bonds between parents and grandparents. For others, the relationship needs help. In that case, some people may wish to pursue grandparents visitation rights in Oklahoma.
Grandparents tend to live longer, happier lives into their later years. They experience less loneliness and depression than their peers who don’t have these close relationships.
Grandchildren also benefit from the relationship. This is particularly true when the grandchild’s nuclear family is experiencing some kind of extended difficulty. Grandchildren in that situation who have close bonds with their grandparents tend to experience greater resiliency and suffer less anxiety and depression.
There Are Some Grandparents Visitation Rights In Oklahoma
Oklahoma law allows grandparents to seek and obtain legal visitation rights with their grandchildren under certain circumstances. For the most part, these circumstances revolve around disruption in the grandchild’s life and a finding that extending visitation rights to the grandparent would be in the grandchild’s best interests.
In all cases, a grandparent’s rights are secondary to the rights of the parents. Thus, those rights must not conflict. If they do, in most cases, the court will not extend visitation rights to the grandparents.
Grandparents Must Petition The Court
A formal petition before the family court is required. The petition is a formal pleading best drawn up by an experienced Muskogee family law attorney. This document must outline the relationship and explain to the court why extending visitation rights to the grandparents would be beneficial under the circumstances.
The petition is filed with the court. Then, the petition and notice of the hearing are then served on all interested parties, including the parents.
Sometimes, these are contested hearings. It is always best to have an experienced family lawyer represent the grandparents at the hearing. An attorney can present the grandparents’ position clearly and succinctly, while still being careful and respectful of the parents’ rights.
When The Court Will Enforce Grandparents Visitation Rights In Oklahoma
Oklahoma courts will enforce grandparent visitation when it is in the grandchild’s best interests and when the child’s parents are unfit, the grandchild would be harmed without the visitation, and the child’s nuclear family has been dissolved or disrupted. All of these elements must be met in order for the court to order grandparent visitation.
This family disruption can be a result of one or more of the following:
- divorce, separation, or annulment;
- death of a parent who is the child of the grandparent seeking visitation;
- a parent is in prison for a felony;
- the child has been removed from the home and custody has been given to a third party;
- child’s parents have never been married and the relationship between grandparent and grandchild is strong and continuous;
- parental rights of one or both parents have been terminated and the bond between grandchild and grandparent is strong and continuous;
- the grandparent once had custody of the child;
- one of the parents has abandoned the other parent for more than a year and the relationship between grandchild and grandparent is strong and continuous.
Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 109.4
A court will not grant visitation to any grandchild if the child is part of an intact family and both parents object to the granting of visitation. In that case, parental rights supersede grandparent rights.
Factors In Determining The Best Interests Of The Child
In making its decision, the court will look at a number of factors:
- child’s need for and the importance of continuing a pre-existing relationship with the grandparent;
- preference of the child, when age-appropriate;
- grandparent’s willingness to encourage a close continuing relationship between the child and the child’s parents;
- length and quality of the existing relationship between the child and the grandparent, and the grandparents’ desire and efforts to continue that relationship;
- relationship between parent and child;
- why the parents are denying visitation;
- mental and physical health, and moral fitness, of the grandparents, child, and parents;
- stability or lack thereof in the child’s home environment;
- character and behavior of all people who live in the home or who visit frequently;
- amount of visitation time requested and its impact on the child’s other activities; and
- benefits of maintaining the pre-existing relationship when both parents are deceased.
Every case is different, and every case is important. Even small facts matter to a court’s determination in granting or denying grandparent visitation. Bring your questions and concerns to an experienced Muskogee family law attorney today.
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