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In New York, grandparents have a right to seek assistance of the court to obtain visitation with their grandchildren, even in situations where the nuclear family is intact. It is one of few states that actually guarantees such rights, and allows recourse through the court system. That right is included in both the Domestic Relations Law and the Family Court Act. Section 72(1) of the Domestic Relations Law states that:“[w]here either or both of the parents of a minor child, residing within this state, is, or are deceased, or where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene, a grandparent may apply to [supreme or family court] and . . . the court, by order after due notice to the parent or any other person or party having the care, custody, and control of such child, to be given in such manner as the court shall prescribe, may make such directions as the best interest of the child may require, for visitation rights for such grandparent or grandparents in respect to such child.”
I would strongly advise Section 72(1) “does not create an absolute or automatic right of visitation. Instead, the statute provides a procedural mechanism for grandparents to acquire standing to seek visitation with a minor grandchild”. Wilson v. McGlinchey, 2 N.Y.3d 375, 380 (2004).
When grandparents seek visitation under §72(1), the court must undertake a two-part inquiry. “First, [the court] must find standing based on death or equitable circumstances”; and “f [the court] concludes that the grandparents have established the right to be heard, then it must determine if visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild”. Emanuel S. v. Joseph E., 78 N.Y.2d 178, 181 (1991). In Emanual, the courts loosely defined equitable circumstances to mean that a "sufficient existing relationship" has been fostered by grandparents. Factors a court may consider to determine if visitation is in the best interest of the child include the previous relationship between the child and grandparents, whether the parents' objections to the grandparents' visitation is reasonable, the grandparents' attitudes toward the child's parents (i.e, the relationship between them) and the child's desires.
Be aware that the presumption that a fit parent’s decisions are in the child’s best interests is a strong one to overcome. But, the New York courts have already noted also that the problems created by parent-grandparent antagonism cannot be ignored and an acrimonious relationship is generally not sufficient cause to deny visitation. “It is almost too obvious to state that, in cases where grandparents must use legal procedures to obtain visitation rights, some degree of animosity exists between them and the party having custody of the child or children. Were it otherwise, visitation could be achieved by agreement” Lo Presti v. Lo Presti, 40 N.Y.2d 522, 526 (1976).
I would strongly advise you to seek out a local family law attorney familiar with grandparent visitation issues to discuss the matter further. It sounds like you may have to petition the court system to try and establish visitation rights, and you will want a lawyer to assist you in this process.
Hope this helps.
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