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Summary guide to matters invovling grandparent visitation.

Posted by attorney Robert McCarthy

The custodial parent in Massachusetts has a fundamental liberty interest in child rearing and may oppose a complaint for grandparent visitation. Dearborn v. Deausault, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 234, 238 (2002). A grandparent seeking visitation with a child over the objections of a fit parent must rebut the presumption that the parent's decision is legally valid. G.L c. 119, § 39D. There exists a presumption that a fit parent will act in the best interest of a child and the decision of a fit parent concerning grandparent visitation is entitled to considerable deference. Blixt v. Blixt, 437 Mass. 649, 655 (2002). It is said that the natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children. Blixt at 659.

The grandparent has the burden of rebutting the presumptive validity of a parent's visitation decision. Dearborn v. Deausault, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 234, 238 (2002). In order to rebut the presumptive validity of the decision a grandparent must prove that they have a significant preexisting relationship with the child. A significant preexisting relationship means a de facto parental relationship or other relationship of close bonding where significant harm may be readily inferred from the disruption of that relationship. Dearborn v. Deausault, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 234, 238 (2002). In the absence of such a relationship, the grandparent must prove that visitation between grandparent and the child is necessary to protect the child from significant harm. Dearborn v. Deausault, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 234, 238 (2002). Significant harm is harm that adversely affects the child's health, safety, or welfare. Blixt at 659.

Disclaimer: None of the information or materials posted above is intended to constitute legal advice. Viewing this outline does not constitute an attorney client relationship. Local counsel should always be consulted before contemplating any legal action. The above information is general in nature and should not be undertaken without the express advice of an attorney of your choosing.

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Rob McCarthy is an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, before the military courts of the United States, before the United States Court of Military Appeals and before the federal district court of Massachusetts. He is a former officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and was a candidate for the U.S. Congress from Massachusetts in 2010. He may be reached at 781-816-9001.

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