Grandparent visitation

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Sometimes grandparents have the right to visit their grandchildren. But they only have this right if they have a court order.

If grandparents and parents agree about visitation, they do not have to go to court.

If they cannot agree, sometimes grandparents can get a court order that says they can visit.

When can a grandparent ask a court to order visitation?

In Massachusetts, grandparents have the right to ask a court for visits if:

  • The parents were married and then divorced,
  • The parents are still married, but they live apart, and there is a court order about the separation,
  • One or both parents are dead, or
  • The parents were never married, they are living apart, and there is proof of who the child's father is because
    • the father has signed a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage” or
    • there is a court judgment that says he is the father.

But grandparents on the mother's side do not need to show proof of who the father is.


Grandparents cannot ask for visitation if the parents are living together.

When can the court give grandparents visitation?

The court can give grandparents visitation if they show at a hearing that:

  • it is in their grandchild's best interest, and
  • they had an important relationship with their grandchild before the grandparent visitation case began; and
  • it will be very harmful to their grandchild's health, safety, or welfare if their grandchild cannot see them.

Even if the grandparent did not have an important relationship with the child before the case began, the court can still grant visitation rights. The court can grant visitation rights if the grandparent can prove that visitation is still necessary to protect the child from “significant harm.”

It is up to the grandparents to prove this, as the courts usually let parents make this decision.

How does a grandparent ask the court for visitation?

There is a court form petition that grandparents file to ask for visitation rights with their grandchild(ren).

The Probate and Family Court has instructions for filling out the form.

In the instructions, the Court asks grandparents seeking visitation rights to attach an affidavit with their petition. An affidavit is a written statement that you sign. There is no affidavit "form." By signing the statement, you are swearing that what you wrote in the statement is the truth. The instructions say that the affidavit should describe:

  • The involvement and relationship between the grandparent(s) and grandchild(ren).
  • Why contact between the grandparent(s) and grandchild(ren) was reduced or ended.
  • The current level of contact, if any.
  • The significant harm to the child(ren)'s health, safety, or welfare that would likely occur if visitation is not ordered.


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