In Michigan, when grandparents are denied access to their grandchild they can petition the court for grandparent visitation rights. The process can be an uphill battle because there are restrictions on their ability to do so successfully. The biggest obstacle to grandparents petitioning for visitation rights is that parents have a Constitutionally protected fundamental right to raise their children without outside interference. This includes deciding who can spend time with their children.
Additionally, grandparents can only petition for visitation under limited circumstances. According to current law, grandparents are able to petition the court to order visitation only if there is an absence of the nuclear family. That is to say that the child’s mother and father are no longer married, are separated, have had their marriage annulled, one of the parents is deceased, or if the parents were never married.
The grandparents must prove that denying them visitation would result in “a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.” The harm standard is a notoriously difficult standard to meet. A grandparent must demonstrate that allowing visitation is in the best interests of the child. The court takes into consideration the impact that visitation will have on the parent/child relationship, and also delve into the previous nature of the grandparent/child relationship.