Oklahoma Grandparent rights exit…maybe. The reason I express caution is that the right isn’t absolute. Just like opinions that say there isn’t a right, it also isn’t absolute. Oklahoma Grandparent rights spring from, if at all, what the law calls a totality of the circumstances not a statute. This is a complicated way of saying that the law looks at Grandparent rights on a case by case basis As attorneys practicing family and child custody law, we get the importance of families. We also get it that lots of times a “family”, simply doesn’t just mean the parents and their children. It can include close relatives, like aunts, uncles, grandparents and even great grand parents.
The Need For Grandparents:
When a divorce or a paternity action happens, often times relatives or close third parties become involved. More often than not, the issue of grandparents rights and Grandparents visitation, shows up. It’s understandable that everyone wants time with a child, especially the younger children. Regrettably, in the state of Oklahoma, Grandparents do not have any statutory rights to custody and visitation.
While these individuals can ask the court for separate visitation, the standard is extremely high. It is extremely important to know that under no circumstances will any judge grant the right of visitation to any party if the child is a member of an intact nuclear family and both parents of the child object to the granting of visitation.
Proving Parents are Unfit or Potentially Harmful:
For example not only do the individuals seeking visitation must prove to the court in a hearing that such visitation would be in the child’s best interest, but may also have to demonstrate that the parents are unfit or have to prove that the child would suffer harm or potential harm if visitation was not granted.
Similarly, the individual seeking visitation must show that the “nuclear family” has been disrupted either through Oklahoma divorce, someone else besides the parents having custody of the children or death of a parent. In the case someone else having custody (i.e., foster care, DHS custody or in a guardianship) or death, the person seeking visitation must have had a pre-existing relationship with the child and again show that it would be in the child’s best interest that visitation exist.
Additionally, if it is a paternity action and the parental rights of the father of the child terminate, the parents of the father of the child will not have a right of visitation unless: the father of the child has been judicially determined to be the father of the child, and the court determines that a previous grandparent relationship existed between the grandparent and the child. Similarly, in a situation where the parental rights of the mother of the child terminate, the parents of the mother of the child will not have a right of visitation unless the court determines that a previous grandparent relationship exists between the grandparent and the child.
Best Interest Considerations
What it really always comes down to though is what’s in the best interest of the child. In Oklahoma Family Court “best interest” can mean a lot of things. But for the purposes of grandparent visitation it means that the grandparents must demonstrate and the court must consider:
- the needs of and importance to the child for a continuing preexisting relationship with the grandparent
- the willingness of the grandparent or grandparents to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent or parents
- the length, quality and intimacy of the preexisting relationship between the child and the grandparent
- the love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parent and child
- the motivation and efforts of the grandparent to continue the preexisting relationship with the grandchild
- the motivation of parent or parents denying visitation
- the mental and physical health of the grandparent or grandparents
- mental and physical health of the child
- the mental and physical health of the parents
- whether the child is in a permanent, stable, satisfactory family unit and environment
- the moral fitness of the parties
- the character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the homes of the parties and their interactions with the child
- the quantity of visitation time and the potential adverse impact the visitation has on customary activities of the child
- if both parents are dead, the benefit in maintaining the preexisting relationship
Tulsa Oklahoma Grandparent Rights Law Firm:
The relationship with your child doesn’t end when they reach adulthood. Rather, the relationship extends through generations. The relationship is one that exits by blood and through the relationships you’ve developed with those same grandchildren. If you’ve got questions related to Oklahoma Grandparent rights or family law give us a call. We care about you and we care about your case.