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Grandparent visitation in Massachusetts

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Massachusetts law allows grandparents to seek visitation rights with their unmarried, minor grandchildren in certain circumstances. General Law Chapter 119, Section 39D provides that if the child's parents are divorced, living apart under a temporary court order, if one or both parents is deceased, or if the parents were never married (but paternity has been establish) and the parents are living apart, a court may give a grandparent reasonable visitation if it is in the best interests of the child. Interestingly, when the parents are living together, they can make the decision to deny a grandparent access to the grandchild and the grandparent has no recourse. But, once a divorce is initiated, a grandparent gains access under the law to ask the court to grant visitation rights.

A Petition for Grandparent Visitation will be allowed only if there is a showing of a significant preexisting relationship between the grandparent and child such that visitation is in the best interests of the child, or, in the absence of such preexisting relationship, where the visitation is necessary to protect the child from significant harm. To succeed in obtaining visitation, the grandparent must prove that the failure to grant visitation will cause the child significant harm by adversely affecting the child's health, safety or welfare. A detailed affidavit must accompany the Petition, describing the nature of the involvement and relationship between the grandparent
and the granchild; the circumstances surrounding either the curtailment or termination of contact; a
description of current level of contact, if any; and a statement describing the significant harm to the child's health, safety, or welfare likely to be suffered by the child if visitation is not ordered. That affidavit is key to success in a grandparent visitation action.

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