A primer on grandparents’ visitation rights in Tennessee, part 2

It is an unfortunate reality that many grandparents are legally barred from visiting their grandchildren. To remedy this, some grandparents petition the court for visitation rights. In Tennessee, grandparents do have the right to see their grandchildren—in a few unique circumstances. We examined these circumstances in our first blog post about the state of grandparents’ rights in Tennessee.

Before allowing grandparents to have visitation rights, the court must also decide whether visitation would be in the best interests of the child. In this conclusion to our two-part series, let’s take a look at the standards that Tennessee uses to evaluate a child’s best interests.

The “Best Interest Test”

Tennessee has an extensive list of criteria that it uses to evaluate a child’s best interests regarding grandparental visitation. Sometimes referred to as The Best Interest Test, the list is composed of 11 criteria that a court will consider when hearing a grandparents’ rights case. A few examples include: 

  • The duration and quality of the grandparents’ relationship with the child
  • Whether the grandparents and child still have emotional ties
  • The child’s preference regarding visitation, when applicable
  • The grandparents’ willingness to foster a good relationship with the child’s parents
  • The separated parents’ custody schedule
  • The grandparents' desire to maintain a significant existing relationship with the child

The good news for grandparents

Petitioning for visitation can be an overwhelming time for grandparents. Fortunately, there are a few bright spots in the process. First, Tennessee courts have found that grandparents have equal standing with parents when trying to modify grandparental visitation. In addition, grandparents also do not need to present an expert witness to testify in court on their behalf. When determining whether the grandparents and child have a significant existing relationship and whether the termination of this relationship would harm the child, the court bases its decision on what a “reasonable person” would conclude. Even with these advantages, however, a court win is never guaranteed. Grandparents who wish to sue for visitation rights may benefit significantly from the assistance of a family law attorney.

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