Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Alabama
Although grandparents are often an integral part of a child’s upbringing, the courts recognize few rights for them in family law situations. In Troxell v. Granville (2000), the United States Supreme Court overturned a Washington state law that gave judges the ability to grant visitation to any party if it was in the best interest of the child. Although this case made it more difficult for a child’s grandparents to sue for visitation rights, Alabama provides for protection of a grandparents’ right to visitation in certain circumstances.
Alabama state law explicitly allows the grandparents of a child to sue for visitation rights under any of the five following circumstances: one or both parents of the child are deceased, if the parents are divorced, if one of the parents has abandoned the child, if the child was born out of wedlock, or in the case that both parents are still married to each other and one or both parents are expressly prohibiting the grandparent(s) and the child from having a relationship. Grandparents may also sue for visitation rights if an Alabama state court is adjudicating custody of the child, the divorce of the parents, or whether the parents are fit to raise the child.
When determining whether to grant visitation rights to the grandparents, the court is primarily interested in whether granting visitation rights is in the best interest of the child in terms of physical safety and emotional development. To this end, the court is interested in the grandparents’ willingness to foster a close relationship between the parent(s) and child, the choice of the child (if they are of age to make a meaningful determination), the mental and physical health of both the child and the grandparents, and evidence or potential of abuse. The statute also reserves the right for the court to allow for any other relevant information about the domestic circumstances to be included in the judge’s decision.
Troxell v. Granville greatly restricted the ability of a child’s grandparents to petition for a court to force the parents to allow visitation. Unless the domestic situation is fractured or there is evidence of abuse, the parents of a child cannot be forced to allow for visitation rights, even to the child’s grandparents.
If you or someone you know needs family law advice in Alabama, contact The Hawkins Law Firm for consultation.