Friday, May 7, 2010

GrandParent Rights in New York in Family and Supreme Court

I just read an article, in one of those $3.00 magazines, a little guilty pleasure of mine, about the strife between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s Mother, about Angelina’s parenting skills and choices. Brad Pitt’s mother does not agree with the junk food her grandchildren are allowed to eat, how much the children travel and the instability it causes in their lives, among other things.

Now, we’ll never know if the reported problems between Mrs. Jolie and Brad Pitt’s mother are true, but what I do know, unfortunately all to well, is that the argument between grandparents and their children or son-in-law/daughter-in-law about parenting can be very true and can quickly get out of hand and may even reach the Family or Supreme Court.

So, since I had two grandparents, who practically raised me, I really value the bond and guidance grandparents can provide for their grand children, a relationship completely different than the one a child shares with their own parents, I am a big proponent of Grand Parent rights. Unfortunately, most states do not recognize such rights. I am fortunate to practice in New York, because even though the rights of Grandparents are extremely limited, they are recognized.

Now, before Grandparents may proceed in Family Court to assert their concerns and rights, they must prove standing before the Court. The Grandparent must establish the right to seek visitation and/or to bring up any other issues they may have by coming within the provisions of "death or equitable circumstances" that permit the court to entertain the petition. The Court of Appeals has now liberally defined the "circumstances" or "conditions" under which "equity would see fit to intervene" to grant standing. The Court rejected that the statute or its legislative history eliminated standing when the grandchild lives with fit parents in an intact nuclear family. The Court noted:

The nature and extent of the grandparent-grandchild relationship is the crux of the inquiry. It is not enough that the grandparents allege love and affection for their grandchild. They must establish a meaningful existing relationship with their grandchild, or in cases where that has been frustrated by the parents, a sufficient effort to establish one, so that the court perceives it as one deserving the court's intervention. If the grandparents have done nothing to foster a relationship or demonstrate their attachment to the grandchild, despite opportunities to do so, then they will be unable to establish that conditions exist where "equity would see fit to intervene." The evidence necessary will vary in each case but what is required of grandparents must always be measured against what they could reasonably have done under the circumstances."

Once standing is established, then the Court must hear the petition and decide what is in the best interest of the child. Grandparents still have to overcome the established legal presumption that biological parents act in the best interest of the child, and that the biological parent may be angry and upset that the Grandparent brought them to Court or just not believe having the grandparents around is in the best interest of the child.

For a more detailed account of the history of Grandparent rights and sibling rights you can go to:

Until Next Time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @

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