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Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in TN?

Grandparents in many families are heavily involved in their grandchildren's lives – even contributing to raising them. But when parents divorce or separate, grandparents may end up spending less time with their grandkids. 

Fortunately, Tennessee family law gives grandparents visitation rights to see their grandchildren under limited circumstances. A child’s biological grandparent, the spouse of a child’s biological grandparent, and a parent of a person who adopted a child are afforded such rights. 

However, state courts have clarified that parents and grandparents do not start on equal footing. Rather, a parent’s decision to deny grandparent visitation outweighs a grandparent’s visitation rights. 

If a child’s parent is against grandparent visitation, the grandparent can file a petition for visitation rights with the court if: 

  • The child’s parents are divorced, separated, or were never legally married 

  • One parent is deceased 

  • One parent has been missing for at least six months 

  • Another state’s court-ordered grandparent visitation 

  • The child lived with the grandparent for at least 12 months and the parents removed the child from the home 

If grandparents meet one of the requirements mentioned above, then the court will determine if there is a danger of substantial harm to the child should grandparent visitation not be granted. This is especially true if the grandparent acted as a primary caregiver and significant reduction of the relationship could disrupt the child’s life, or the child would be subject to physical or emotional harm if the “significant existing relationship” between the child and grandparent is severed. 

A significant existing relationship means that the child lived with the grandparent for at least six (6) consecutive months, the grandparent took care of the child full-time for at least six (6) consecutive months, or the grandparent had frequent visitation with the child for at least one (1) year. 

Lastly, the court will make a ruling on visitation that is in the child’s best interests. Common factors include quality and length of the relationship between the child and grandparent, the emotional ties between the child and grandparent, if grandparent visitation would interfere with the child-parent relationship, if one or both parents are unfit, etc. 

If you wish to petition for grandparent visitation rights in Chattanooga, contact Conner & Roberts, PLLC today at (423) 299-4489 for a free initial consultation. Our legal team has nearly four decades of combined legal experience! 

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