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New York law recognizes grandparents’ right to seek custody or visitation of grandchildren in some limited situations. Grandparents may seek an order of legal or physical custody for grandchildren only in extenuating circumstances.  Specifically, as a non-parent of the child, a grandparent must show by clear and convincing evidence that “extraordinary circumstances” exist and that granting the grandparent custody would be in the child's best interest.  See Bennet v. Jeffreys, 40 N.Y. 2d 543 (1976).  Given this high burden, awards of custody to grandparents are rare.

However, under Domestic Relations Law § 72, a grandparent can seek an order of visitation with a grandchild.  Petitions for grandparent visitation require a two-part inquiry: first, the grandparent must establish “standing” to seek visitation.  Second, the grandparent must prove that an order of visitation is in the grandchild’s best interest. 

In order to establish standing to seek visitation, the grandparent must establish either:

·         One of the parents of the child died; or

·         Circumstances exist for which equity would see fit to intervene.

When considering whether equitable circumstances exist, courts consider a number of factors, including the nature and quality of the relationship between the grandparent and the child; the grandparent’s ability to nurture the child; his or her attitude toward the custodial parents; reasons for any objections that parents may have to visitation; and the child’s preferences.  The court makes a similar inquiry when determining whether visitation with a grandparent is in the child's best interest.

With experience in grandparent visitation cases, the Law Offices of Andrew T. Coyle is prepared to represent you whether you are a grandparent seeking custody or visitation, or a parent defending against a grandparent’s claims.

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