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The relationship between grandparents and grandchild can be one of happiness, generosity, respect, and joy. However, sometimes events such as a parent’s death or divorce can alter relationships. After an event like this, the child’s parent can block any further contact with grandparents, who may in turn take legal action to maintain contact.

As scenarios like this became more and more common, by the 1970s state legislature began implementing “grandparent visitation” statutes in an attempt to preserve the visitation rights of grandparents. Now, all 50 states have some type of grandparent visitation law. These statutes allow grandparents to ask a court to give them the legal right to maintain their relationships with their children’s children.

How does a grandparent ask for visitation in court?

Under the law, a grandparent who wants to ask the court to order visitation with a grandchild can file a petition in court. It is difficult to figure out exactly how to file this petition. There may already be a family law case filed between the child’s parents (like a divorce, a parentage case, a child support case, or a domestic violence restraining order) and a grandparent may be able to ask for visitation under one of those existing cases.

In general, grandparents cannot file for visitation rights while the grandchild’s parents are married. But there are exceptions, like:

  • The parents are living separately;
  • A parent’s whereabouts are unknown (and have been for at least a month);
  • One of the parents joins the grandparent’s petition for visitation;
  • The child does not live with either of his or her parents; or
  • The grandchild has been adopted by a stepparent

In Utah, Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include whether a parent is deceased, or whether the parents are divorced or separated. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.

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